India: 2 killed in Srikakulam as police fire on protest challenging power project

Two protestors were killed and many injured when police attacked and opened fire


K. Srinivasa Rao

Sompeta on the boil; protestors launch agitation against proposed power project

SOMPETA (Srikakulam dt): Two persons were killed and dozens injured when police opened fire and resorted to lathicharge to quell angry agitators protesting the establishment of a 2,640 MW thermal power project here on Wednesday.

The two agitators killed in the police firing at Baruva near here were identified as G. Krishnamurthy of Lakkavaram village and Bandi Joga Rao of Palasapuram. Unconfirmed reports said two more, K. Venugopala Rao and E. Mohan Rao, also fell prey to police bullets.

Four other protesters who sustained bullet injuries — Bhanu Kumar, P. Lakshminarayana Rao, D. Gavarayya and P. Viswanatham — were admitted to Srikakulam Government Hospital.

About 45 policemen too were injured.

Trouble began when agitators from Baruva, Palasapuram, Lakkavaram, Jankili, Jankibhadra and Gollagonda villages gathered at the site of the power plant to obstruct the works being taken up by Nagarjuna Construction Company. With the company officials ruling out stoppage of works, there were heated arguments and then a tussle.

About 5,000 protestors targeted the company office from all corners, forcing the policemen to retreat. The constables tried to save themselves by getting into police van. The agitators chased and attacked them with sticks. Protestors started charging towards the site while policemen made repeated attempts to stop them.

Police chased away protestors to far-off places. But they returned with sticks and red chilli powder. They were angry with the NCC officials too as they had reportedly engaged ‘rowdies’ who stood guard with lathis at the plant site under the guise of workers.

Sompeta and Baruva located about 110 km from Srikakulam town in north coastal Andhra Pradesh and surrounding villages soon turned into a war zone as both sides fought a pitched battle, leaving several injured. The agitators then turned their ire at media persons alleging that the media had ignored their movement against the power plant and that it had colluded with NCC management.

Five media personnel, including The Hindu photographer Basheer, Eenadu photographer K. Simhachalam, TV-9 cameraman Anil Kumar and ABN cameraman Ramesh were injured. The condition of Mr. Anil Kumar who was admitted to Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences in Srikakulam, was stated to be serious. The mob burnt two police vehicles and five two-wheelers of press persons.

The NCC is setting up the power project on the 1,500-acre site. While the government allotted 900 acres, it had acquired another 600 acres by paying Rs.3 lakh per acre to the farmers.

Environmentalists and locals are opposing the project saying it would take away the livelihood of farmers and fishermen living in 24 villages in and around Sompeta and destroy the ecology.

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