Kudankulam: One person was killed in police firing in Tuticorin as anti-nuclear protesters turned violent today after police foiled their repeated attempts to lay siege to the atomic power plant here against loading of uranium fuel.
A 44-year old fisherman was killed when police opened fire at a group of people who clashed with them while blocking a road in Manapad coastal village as the protest spilled to neighbouring Tuticorin District, police said.
At Kudankulam in Tirunelveli District, the main scene of protests for the last two days, police resorted to lathi-charge and burst teargas shells to disperse over 2,000 protesters who fought pitched battles throwing stones and logs.
As the baton-wielding policemen chased away the protesters, many of them moved towards the sea to escape.
Sporadic violence then followed as enraged groups of protesters set fire to a local Panchayat office, the Village Administrative Officer’s office and a state-run liquor retail shop in Kudankulam, in an ugly turn to the over year-long peaceful protest, police said.
The police action followed after authorities failed to persuade the protesters who, for the second day, defied prohibitory orders and stayed put at the seashore, about 500 metres away from the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant.
The protest spilled into Tuticorin where about 500 people stopped a train for some time by squatting on track. The protestors also blocked Tuticorin-Nagercoil highway.
In Delhi, the government accused some foreign NGOs of instigating the protesters. “Foreign NGOs are supporting the movement. We are aware about the NGOs which are behind it,” Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters.
In February, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had blamed some US-based NGOs for putting difficulties in launching the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu.
Government had also probed fundings of around 12-13 Indian voluntary organisations which were launching the protest movement in Kudankulam.
In Chennai, appealing for peace, chief minister Jayalalithaa asked the people not to fall prey to anti-nuclear lobbyists, insisting that the project is safe.
Condeming the police action, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, spearheading the protest against KNPP, announced a 48-hour relay fast against it. BJP lashed out at the police action and held the UPA government at Centre responsible for the “riot-like situation” in Kudankulam.
Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy demanded that the army be put on stand-by to assist the Tamil Nadu government in quelling the protesters.
The protesters gave the call for the siege as a last-ditch effort to stall the Indo-Russian project after regulatory authorites gave their nod for loading the uranium fuel in the first of the two reactors.
A bandh-like situation prevailed here and surrounding villages with shops and schools remaining shut. The villagers also dug up main roads leading to Idinthakarai in a bid to prevent police vehicles from entering it.
Around 4,000 security personnel, including Rapid Action Force, have been deployed in the area.
The first unit of KNPP was scheduled for commissioning in December last, but ran into rough weather with the locals demanding its scrapping on safety concerns.