Anti-nuclear protest turns violent

April 20, 2011 at 12:00 AM
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MUMBAI, April 19 (UPI) -- Violence hit an Indian state on the second day of protests against a nuclear power project, a day after a protester died in police gunfire, officials said.

Police resorted to caning to disperse demonstrators Tuesday and later slapped an indefinite curfew in Ratnagiri town in western Maharashtra state, the Indian Express reported. The nuclear power plant is proposed to be built in nearby Jaitapur.

A local fisherman who had joined the demonstrators protesting the project died Monday after police began firing to prevent protesters from setting fire to a police station, authorities said. Police said they feared the demonstrators might loot weapons and ammunition in the station.

Irate demonstrators returned Tuesday to Ratnagiri, the district headquarters south of the state capital of Mumbai, to protest the killing of the fisherman and to oppose the nuclear project. They demanded an immediate scrapping of the project, the Express reported.

The protesters later began throwing stones and setting fire to tires to block roads at several places, police said.

Opposition to the nuclear project has heightened since the March 11 nuclear crisis at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant set off by an earthquake and tsunami.

The Times of India, quoting sources, reported the Indian federal government is unlikely to reconsider the Jaitapur project despite the protests or the Fukushima plant crisis.

Jaitapur is one of four projects for which the Nuclear Power Corp. of India has already received environmental clearance, the report said. When built, at an estimated cost of about $10 billion, with the help of France's Areva energy company, the Jaitapur plant would be the biggest in the world, the BBC reported.

Opponents say Jaitapur is vulnerable to earthquakes and they fear a Fukushima-size disaster. Local fishermen are concerned the plant would destroy their fishing region and their livelihood.

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