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Situation calm in Kudankulam

Kudankulam(IANS): After two days of protests against the Kudankulam nuclear project, the situation in the Idinthakarai village in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu is calm, said an official Tuesday.

The situation is calm, the police have left the village. Schools and shops have opened, normalcy is slowing in the area, Trinuveli District Collector R. Selvaraj told IANS Tuesday.

Around 20 people were on fast for 48 hours at Idinthakarai village in Tirunelveli, around 650 km from here, against the Kudankulam nuclear project. We are worried about whereabouts of PMANE (people movement against nuclear energy) leaders, S.P. Udayakumar and M. Pushparayan, Selvaraj said.

Since they are hiding in a boat, we are trying to locate them, he said. Officials of the AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) are at the nuclear plant doing the final studies, Selvaraj added.

The over a year-long protests against the Kudankulam nuclear 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 on protestors near the plant in Tirunelveli district.

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 fire 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.

A resident of the village had told IANS that around 300 policemen were in the village. It was from this village that the protesters charted their plans after the state 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. Justifying the police action, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, in a statement, had said the protesters tried to advance towards the nuclear power plant despite police officials asking them to disperse as the prohibitory orders have been issued.

“The protestors not only attempted to move closer to the Kudankulam atomic power plant but also 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 which is most safe. The chief minister had also 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.

The 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 the prohibitory orders.

Around 4,000 policemen were deployed around the plant site, and senior police officials also rushed to the spot.

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