The hitherto-peaceful agitation against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu turned violent on Monday, with protesters attacking policemen, and police resorting to lathi-charge and the firing of teargas shells.

The agitation, which was confined to Idinthakarai and surrounding villages, spilled over to the neighbouring Tuticorin district where one fisherman was killed when police opened fire.

In the morning, the Idinthakarai beach turned into a battlefield as the protesters made a move to lay siege to the reactors. After attempts by revenue and police officials to persuade the people to disperse failed, the protesters hurled logs and footwear. Police burst teargas shells and resorted to lathicharge.

The leaders of the agitation — S.P. Udayakumar, M. Pushparayan and Rev. Fr. M. P. Jesuraj — were taken away in three boats to a safer place by their colleagues.

Meanwhile, tension moun- ted along the coastal hamlets of Tuticorin as fishermen gathered to protest the police action at Idinthakarai.

In Tuticorin, a crowd gathered in front of Our Lady of Snows Basilica and blocked vehicular traffic. The agitators forcibly took away four police personnel, including two women, to a marriage hall at Periyathaalai and released them in the evening.

Checkpoint set ablaze

A mob set fire to a checkpoint at Manapad and proceeded towards the Kulasekarapattinam police station when the firing took place.

G. Antony John, 48, a fisherman of Manapad, was killed in the firing. Incidents were reported from several coastal hamlets in Tuticorin. A group of fishermen squatted on the track at the Tuticorin railway station, delaying the departure of the Tuticorin-Mysore Express by three hours.

Shortly after the police operation at Idinthakarai, an IMFL shop was set ablaze at Uvari. Crowds stoned vehicles, dug up roads and placed hurdles to prevent the entry of police into Idinthakarai. At least 10 personnel, including Inspector-General of Police (South Zone) Rajesh Das and DIG (Tirunelveli Range) V. Varadharaju, were injured.