Amid tight security, a protest at sea by fishermen against the commissioning of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant passed off peacefully here on Saturday.

With this sole demand, a large number of fishermen sailed past the Tuticorin coast with a fleet of more than 700 boats in an attempt to lay siege to the approach channel of the V.O. Chidambaranar Port, condemning the Central and State governments for their stand on the issue.

Many fishermen from Tirunelveli and neighbouring coastal hamlets also participated. The boats moved at an average speed in tandem. On steering towards the port channel, where a long and sturdy rope was tied visibly between breakwaters at the threshold, the fleet of boats, which converged close to the channel, stayed afloat.

The agitating fishermen raised slogans, demanding the closure of the nuclear power plant. They also demanded the withdrawal of the police force from Idinthakarai, withdrawal of cases registered against the protesters and relaxation of prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code by the Tirunelveli district administration. With national flags hoisted atop the bow and black flags fluttering up the stern in all boats, the participants said the protest was to express their concern at the commissioning of the nuclear power project as it would harm human lives. Claiming that their livelihood would be at stake once the plant was made operational, the agitators alleged that both the governments were acting against the interests of the fisherfolk.

However, port activities were not affected because of the agitation, according to sources. A surveillance aircraft hovered over the coast to monitor the sailing vessels. Two patrolling Indian Coast Guard ships – Naiki Devi and Veera – were involved in the operation, said Commandant S.E.D. Anand Kumar, Indian Coast Guard, Tuticorin Station. Central Industrial Security Force personnel were also on high alert to avert any danger.

C. Sylendra Babu, Additional Director General of Police, Coastal Security Group, said a drill was executed by the personnel ahead of the sailing protest by the fishermen, who had been advised to act according to signals on assembling and dispersing. He said that vigil would be stepped up further to prevent any untoward incident. Y. John Nicholson, Deputy Inspector General of Police (CB-CID), said the police force was doubly careful and meetings were convened with fishermen on Friday ahead of the protest. Adequate strength of land force was deployed at Tuticorin fishing harbour.