Chennai: The over a year-long protests against the Kudankulam nuclear project in Tamil Nadu turned violent Monday, leaving one agitator dead in police firing in Tuticorin district and several injured in a police baton charge on protestors near the plant in Tirunelveli district.
The protests, spearheaded by People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), and earlier confined to Kudankulam and Idinthakarai villages in Tirunelveli, around 650 km from here, spread to Tuticorin following the baton charge on the protesting fishermen on the beach at Kudankulamaround 11.30 a.m. Monday.
Protesting against the baton charge, an around 400-strong crowd attacked a police check post in Manapaddu village in Tuticorin village. A protestor was shot dead in defensive fire by a policemen, after his other three colleagues, including a woman constable, were injured.
“Three of the police officials, including the policewomen, were injured and the one remaining policemen opened fire in self-defence, resulting in one death,” a police official, who did not want to be named, told IANS over phone from Tuticorin.
The incident happened at around 4.45 p.m. Meanwhile, an around 500-strong mob was holding a protest at the Tuticorin railway station, thereby delaying the departure of two trains, police said.
In Tirunelveli, there was tension in the eight villages near Kudankulam plant. ”The situation is tense. The protesters have gone back to their villages and police have followed them to prevent the situation from going out of control,” a police official told IANS.
According to him, police are yet to ascertain how many people were injured in the Monday morning clash. ”Several police officials have also been injured by stone-pelting protesters,” he said. Tamil television channel visuals showed village roads strewn with stones and burning tyres.
This is the first time police started cracking down on the protesters who launched their agitation against the Kudankulan Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) more than a year ago.
The violence comes as plant officials announced that enriched uranium fuel would be loaded in the first of the two nuclear reactors around Sep 11.
For the first time since the protests began, a large police contingent entered Idinthakarai village in Tirunelveli district, which has served as the hub of the protest. A resident of the village said that around 300 policemen were in the village.
It was from this village that the protesters charted their plans after the state government gave its green signal to the project last year. The government had earlier asked the central government to allay the fears of the public before carrying out construction work.
Justifying the police action, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, in a statement, said the protesters tried to advance towards the nuclear power plant despite police officials asking them to disperse as the prohibitory orders have been issued.
“The protestors not only attempted to move closer to the Kudankulam atomic power plant but also attacked police with logs injuring some policemen. In self-defence and also to protect the public if they attack the nuclear power plant, police fired tear gas shells,” Jayalalithaa said.
She also appealed to the protesters to extend their cooperation for the early commissioning of the reactor which is most safe. The chief minister has also announced compensation of Rs.5 lakh to the kin of the protester killed in Tuticorin.
India’s atomic power plant operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is building two 1,000 MW reactors with Russian help at Kudankulam since 2001.
Villagers under the PMANE banner have opposed the project for the past one year, fearing for their safety, especially since the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan March 2011.
The PMANE had decided to take its fight against the Rs.17,120-crore project near the plant and away from Idinthakarai village near Kudankulam. Around 8,000 people including women and children from eight villages near Kudankulam assembled at the beach since Sunday morning to stage their protest despite the prohibitory orders.
Around 4,000 policemen were deployed around the plant site, and senior police officials also rushed to the spot. The whereabouts of PMANE leaders are not known.
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