The protest against India's largest nuclear power project at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu reached a flash point on Monday as the police and protesters clashed near the plant daylong while one person died in police firing in a neighbouring district.
While both sides- protestors and police- blamed each other for the day´s violence, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has urged for peace and said the plant as well as nuclear energy is safe.
While the ground zero of protest was Kudankulam, one protestor died when police opened fire in neighbouringTuticorin district to bring the demonstrating fishermen under control.
Protesters had gathered near the Kudankulam nuclear plant to demonstrate against the loading of enriched uranium fuel in the plant.
Police on Monday fired tear gas shells to disperse protesters in order to control the massive agitation in Kudankulam as the agitationists found their way to the plant and later jumped into the sea to escape police action.
A senior police official from Kudankulam told IBNS that People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) leader Uday Kumar resorted to rioting and used women and children as shields.
He said the protestors were armed with sticks.
He said two cops, including a constable, were held confined by the protesters wrongfully.
The protesters tried to damage the plant and about 4000 strong mob was trying to march towards the plant, he said.
"They speak of peace but there was nothing peaceful about the protest," he said.
"The situation is now under control but there is tension," said the official.
The protesters reportedly blocked the Tuticorin-Nagercoil highway.
Earlier in the day, the protesters were on the sea near the plant when the police started cracking down. As shells were fired, they took refuge in the sea to escape the police.
The protesters also threw rocks at the police.
Several protesters and policemen were injured during the clash.
"At least ten cops were injured in the violence and of them two sustained serious injuries," said a senior police official.
Speaking on Kudankulam protests, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said: "Some NGOs are very much interested in this ( Kudankulam protests ). I do not want to name the countries."
He said nuclear energy is ´clean energy´.
PMANE on the other hand said they were being harassed and intimidated.
Police is inciting violence against unarmed civilians and nonviolent fighters including thousands of children and women, PMANE said.
A day ago they villagers and activists had began fresh protest against the plant in violation of prohibitory orders.
A group of locals and fishermen, led by activist organisations like PMANE, raised a protest movement against the Kudankulam Atomic Power Project coming up in the Tirunelveli district of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
While India´s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said these protests are funded by foreign entities, the local groups denied the charge.
Villagers had first started the protest against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) last year, resorting to hunger strikes and later continued with the agitation in various forms against the nuclear plant.
Even though India's Department of Atomic Energy had cleared the Rs 13,000-crore project, locals and environmental organisations, including Greenpeace, have raised concerns over the project´s use of purportedly risky Russian technology.