Chennai, Sep 10 (IANS) Tamil Nadu police Monday resorted to a cane charge to disburse thousands of villagers, including women and children, staging protests on the beach at Kudankulam, behind the upcoming nuclear power plant.
Earlier, officials had announced that enriched uranium fuel would be loaded in the first of the two nuclear reactors around Sep 11.
This is the first time police started cracking down on the protestors who launched their agitation against the atomic power plant more than a year ago.
For the first time since the protests began, a large contingent of police have entered Idinthakarai village in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here, which has served as the hub of the protest. A resident of the village, speaking to IANS on phone, said around 300 policemen were in the village.
It was from this village that the anti-nuclear plant protestors charted their protest plans after the Tamil Nadu 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.
India's atomic power plant operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is building two 1,000 MW reactors with Russian equipment 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.
With police resorting to cane and lobbing of tear gas, protestors started running and some tried to escape by running towards the sea.
A Tamil television channel showed protestors throwing sand and stones at the police while being lobbed with tear gas shells.
The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) that is spearheading the anti-KNPP movement had decided to take its fight against the Rs. 17,120-crore project near the plant, away from Idinthakarai village near Kudankulam.
On Sunday around 8,000 people including women and children from eight villages near Kudankulam assembled at the beach since morning to stage their protest.
There is a prohibitory order against the assembly of people near the plant. Around 4,000 policemen have been deployed around the plant site.
Police officials were not available for comment, and the whereabouts of the PMANE leaders are not known.