Kudankulam protest turns violent; 1 killed

Police action sparks strong reaction in nearby dists

The nearly 400-day long peaceful protests against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district took a  turn on Monday as a protester was killed in police firing in Tuticorin district on Monday evening.

 Tirunelveli : Security personnel detain a woman activist of People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) during a protest near Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tirunelveli district on Monday. PTI Photo

Earlier in the day, riot police used tear gas and resorted to lathi-charge to disperse anti-KNPP activists.

Tension had been mounting in the area after about 4,000 anti-KNPP protesters under the banner of ‘People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) led by S P Udayakumar, moved out of the Church premises from Idinthakarai coastal hamlet, 3 km north of Kudankulam, to the beach some 500 metres behind the N-plant, since Sunday afternoon. It touched a flash point on Monday morning, as they again tried to march towards the N-plant, official sources told Deccan Herald.

The police action sparked strong protests by fishermen in the neighbouring districts of Kanniyakumari and Tuticorin. At Kulasekarapattinam in Tuticorin district, a fisherman, Anthony, was killed when Police opened fire against a violent mob tried to attack a Police station there. In some places, fisherfolk also staged ‘rasta-roko’ and blocked trains.

 Activists and sympathisers, largely fisherfolk, were demanding that the KNPP authorities stop immediately all activities related to fuel loading in the first 1,000-MWe reactor, scheduled in the coming fewdays. The Madras High Court had dismissed all the PILs against the commissioning of the plant. The agitators said they would move the Supreme Court against the order.

 Police and other authorities were “surprised and stunned” when the protesters began marching towards the plant on Sunday and again on Monday morning in a bid to lay siege to the KNPP.  This time they used different route and came almost 500 metres close to the plant. Few fishermen even tried to ride a boat into the two- km prohibited zone from the sea side.

The protesters stayed on the beach whole of Sunday night, despite Police officials led by South Zone IG Rajesh Das and Tirunelveli District SP Vijayendra Bidari kept telling the crowd to leave the place.

 “The police did not want any confrontation; but a sudden provocation came from the protesters when some fishermen started attacking the police with stones and sticks,” an official who did not want to be named said. 

 As the protesters advanced, the police started lathi-charge and burst tear gas shells. Protesters, including women and children, ran helter skelter and some even jumped into the sea. Several police men including IG’s gunman, were injured.

 While some protesters were detained amid reports that a large number of fisher folk were kept in ‘kalyana mandaps’ to ease the tension, sources said. Udayakumar and his close associates have been “safely rowed away” in a boat by some fishermen to an unidentified place, the sources added. Over 150 cases have already been filed against the PMANE chief Udayakumar and his close aides. The “overall situation is under control, but some villages near Kudankulam are tense,” the sources said. Small groups of anti-KNPP protestors were on the prowl at different places, placing stones on roads to cut off vehicular movement towards the villages. An unruly mob torched few vehicles, ransacked the Kudankulam Panchayat Office and burnt some records, the sources added.

Leaders of various political parties including P Nedumaran of MDMK, Thol Thirumavalavan (VCK),and PMK founder, Dr S Ramadoss strongly condemned the “brutal” police action against the ‘peacefully protesting fisher-folks’ who want the Russian-aided KNPP shut down.

Comments (+)