Amid tight security, a protest at sea by fishermen against the commissioning of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project passed off peacefully here on Saturday.
A large number of fishermen sailed past the Tuticorin coast in 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 converging fleet stayed afloat close to the port channel, where a long and sturdy rope was tied between breakwaters at the threshold. The agitating fishermen raised slogans, demanding withdrawal of the police force from Idinthakarai and of cases registered against the protesters, and relaxation of the prohibitory orders imposed under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
With the national flag hoisted atop the bow and black flags fluttering on the stern in all boats, the participants said their livelihood would be at stake once the nuclear power plant became operational. The agitators alleged that both governments were acting against the interests of fisherfolk.
However, port activities were not affected because of the agitation, according to sources. A surveillance aircraft hovered over the coast to monitor the boats. Two patrolling Coast Guard ships – Naiki Devi and Veera – were involved in the operation, said Commandant S.E.D. Anand Kumar of the Tuticorin Station. Central Industrial Security Force personnel were also on alert.
C. Sylendra Babu, Additional Director General of Police, Coastal Security Group, said a drill was carried out 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 vigil would be stepped up further.
Y. John Nicholson, Deputy Inspector General (CB-CID), said the police force was doubly careful and meetings were convened with fishermen on Friday ahead of their protest. A land force was deployed at Tuticorin fishing harbour. The agitators who used mechanised boats in the sail protest stepped ashore the harbour here around 1.30 p.m.