Fear is the key in Idanthakarai, a coastal fishing village 30 km from Kanyakumari. Fear of the nearby nuclear plant in Kudankulam. Fear of loss of livelihood. Fear of the police - the new menace in their lives.
With just 24 hours remaining before the loading of enriched uranium begins in Kudankulam, Idanthakarai's 10,000-strong population - 98% of them Christians - has stepped up their protest.
Seven-year-old Stabin displays his bruises to the crowd - a result of rough handling by the police. Uttiya, 30, talks of how her tiny house was vandalised by the policemen who came in search of SP Udayakumar, the absconding convener of the protest.
"We suffered a lot in tsunami, but what we now face is worse," says Uttiya, whose home was washed away by the killer waves in 2004.
Most admit police pose a bigger threat than the imposing nuclear plant. The protest organisers take care to fan the flames.
A few metres away, fisherman T Joseph, 48, is busy chewing dried tobacco. A school dropout, he has little idea what a nuclear power is all about. But he knows the plant would emit hot water, keeping away the fish on which his livelihood depends.
The organisers have, after all, shown him video clips of a nuclear disaster in Russia.
Joseph's son, an engineering student, has told him that nuclear power is not so bad. But he is not ready to buy it. "Why are they usurping my livelihood?" he asks plaintively.
The nearby St-Lurde church plays a key role in the lives of villagers. It stands by them even during the protest, providing free food to the 2000-strong crowd who refuse to go home, fearing police action.
Denying allegations of the agitation being sponsored by the church, Fr Jayakumar says, "You can't communalise the issue. Our convener is a Hindu Nadar." He blames the authorities for changing the complexion of a peaceful protest.
The uneasy calm lies heavy on the protesters. Many yearn for some sign of care from the authorities, for their fears to be allayed, almost for being brought to reason. "They behave as if we are from an alien country," says an office-bearer of National Fisherfolk Federation Magline. "Let the authorities allay our fears," adds Joseph.
Jal Satyagraha the next step?
The Kudankulam protest is going the Narmada way. Following the recent success of Jal Satyagrah at Ghogalgaon in Madhya Pradesh, the anti-nuclear plant activists have decided to stand in the seawater from Thursday till their demands be met.
Announcing the new mode of agitation, MP Jesuraj, spokesman of the protesters, said the agitation was being stepped up as the N-plant authorities were going ahead with their plan to load enriched uranium in the first of the two 1,000 MW reactors.