Situation calm in Kudankulam, protest leaders abducted by fishermen

Last Updated: Tue, Sep 11, 2012 18:36 hrs

Chennai: After two days of protests against the Kudankulam nuclear power project, the situation in Idinthakarai village in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli was calm Tuesday even as protests spread to other parts of the state, an official said. Some drama was though reported late night when the stir's leaders went missing after their "abduction" by local fishermen.

Leaders of People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) were abducted by fishermen to prevent them from surrendering to police, people at the spot said.

Eyewitnesses told IANS that PMANE co-ordinator S.P.Udayakumar and leader M.Pushparayan surfaced at Idinthakarai in the evening, following Udayakumar's earlier announcement that he would surrender to the police at Kudankulam around 9 p.m.

However in a dramatic turn of events, fishermen took away Udayakumar and Pushparayan in a boat and their cuurent whereabouts are not known.

Earlier Tuesday, different political parties staged demonstrations and courted arrest, police said.

In Chennai, police arrested Lok Sabha member and VCK party founder Thol Thirumavalavan and members of the MDMK after they held a demonstration against the nuclear power project, a police official told IANS.

The protests were held to condemn the baton charging of anti-KNPP agitators in Kudankulam Monday and the killing of a fishermen in Tuticorin district in police firing.

According to police, around 1,050 people, including around 750 MDMK activists, have been arrested after they staged demonstrations.

Police said protests were held at Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri districts.

The situation was calm in Kudankulam and the police had left the village. Schools and shops had opened and there was normalcy in the area, Tirunelveli District Collector R. Selvaraj told IANS.

Around 20 people were on fast for 48 hours at Idinthakarai village in Tirunelveli, around 650 km from here, against the Kudankulam nuclear power project.

"We are worried about the whereabouts of PMANE leaders Udayakumar and Pushparayan," Selvaraj said.

The over a year-long protests against the Kudankulam nuclear power 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.

The protests, spearheaded by PMANE, and earlier confined to Kudankulam and Idinthakarai villages in Tirunelveli, spread to Tuticorin following the baton charge on the protesting fishermen on the beach at Kudankulam around 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 firing by a policemen, after his other three colleagues, including a woman constable, were injured.

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.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa justified the police action.

"The protestors attempted to move closer to the Kudankulam atomic power plant and 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 had said.

She had also appealed to the protesters to extend their cooperation for the early commissioning of the reactor, calling it safe.

The chief minister 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.

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 prohibitory orders.

Around 4,000 policemen were deployed around the plant site.