Update: Investigate Koodankulam Irregularities – Letter from Seventeen Eminent Activists, Scientists and Retd. Government Officials

10 September 2012

Photograph by Amirtharaj Stephen

23 October 2014

We, the undersigned, are deeply disturbed at newspaper reports about the serious damage sustained by Koodankulam Unit 1’s turbine even before the plant has begun commercial operation. We are also concerned at the total lack of accountability of the Department of Atomic Energy, NPCIL and AERB with respect to the Koodankulam project, and are worried about the safety ramifications of persisting with the commissioning of Unit 1 without a thorough and independent review of the plant, its components and the processes of setting it up. We are also shocked to see that unmindful of the problems plaguing Units 1 and 2, and the issues arising from lack of transparency in the nuclear establishment, NPCIL and the Government of India are moving ahead with work on Units 3 and 4.

It is now confirmed that Unit 1’s turbine is severely damaged and would require replacement. One Tamil newspaper reports that the turbine may be manufactured in India, and that this may entail a delay of two months. This is yet another instance of prevarication. Replacing a turbine at a nuclear power plant will take a lot longer than two months. As usual, no official clarification has been forthcoming from Nuclear Power Corporation India Ltd or its regulator, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. If the reports about the damaged turbine are true, then it is cause for serious concern. The delay in commissioning is the least of the problems; the damaged turbine spotlights far more fundamental issues that impinge on the long-term viability and safety of the reactor. It vindicates allegations by observers and civil society about the compromised quality control and assurance system in India, and raises troubling and as yet unanswered questions about the substandard quality of equipment purchased from Russia.

The manner in which Koodankulam Units 1 and 2 have been constructed represent everything that is wrong with the Indian nuclear establishment. Equipment for the nuclear reactor and related infrastructure arrived way before they were erected, and had to spend years exposed to corrosive sea-air. Instrumentation and other cables that had to be laid before the construction of the containment dome arrived well after the dome was completed. To “manage” this, Indian engineers demolished portions of the containment dome to insert several kilometers of cabling. This is not only unprecedented in nuclear history, but also extremely worrisome for two reasons – first, it compromises the integrity of the containment dome; second, it highlights the casual and unplanned manner in which an extremely delicate and highly risky facility such as a nuclear reactor is actually being constructed.

Many components and critical equipment were manufactured by corruption-tainted companies that had reportedly used substandard raw material. Where countries like China and Bulgaria, which also received such substandard components, held Russian manufacturers to account and forced them to replace or repair such components, Indian authorities continue to deny that any such problem exists. To make matters worse, the entire exercise is shrouded in unnecessary secrecy with NPCIL and the AERB either remaining mum or communicating with partial truths or outright lies.

For these problems to happen at a nuclear reactor that has been at the focus of massive public attention makes us shudder to think what is being passed off in other less visible nuclear projects. While Indian reactors have had an average lead time of 5 months between attaining criticality and commencing commercial production, Koodankulam’s Unit 1 will take more than two years to meet this milestone if ever it does.

We urge the Prime Minister’s office to commission an enquiry into the irregularities at Koodankulam Units 1 and 2, including an interrogation into how such a shoddy plant managed to secure safety, environmental and quality clearances. Such a move will inspire confidence in the minds of public regarding the intentions of the Government.

Sincerely,
Admiral (Retd) L. Ramdas, former Chief of Staff, Indian Navy, Raigad, Maharashtra
Lalita Ramdas, environment and women’s rights activist, Raigad, Maharashtra
E.A.S. Sarma, I.A.S. (Retd), former Union Secretary of Power, Vishakapatnam
M. G. Devasahayam, I.A.S. (Retd), Chennai
Medha Patkar, National Alliance of People’s Movements
Aruna Roy, Social Activist, MKSS
Nikhil Dey, Social Activist, MKSS
Dr. Suvrat Raju, Scientist, Bengaluru
Dr. M.V. Ramana, Scientist, Princeton, USA
Dr. K. Babu Rao, Scientist (Retd), Hyderabad
Dr. T. Swaminathan, Professor (Retd), IIT-Madras
Dr. Atul Chokshi, Professor, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru
Praful Bidwai, Columnist, New Delhi
Arati Chokshi, Social Activist, Bengaluru
Achin Vanaik, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, New Delhi
G. Sundarrajan, Poovulagin Nanbargal, Chennai
Dr. S.P. Udayakumar, PMANE, Nagercoil
Nityanand Jayaraman, writer and social activist, Chennai
Gabriele Dietrich, NAPM, Madurai

Please copy-paste and circulate this letter.

Update: KKNPP Must Tell the Whole Truth

Driving in Kopachi, the buried village in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
via Miguel Ortega Lafuente

If you are pro-nuclear for the benefit of progress of your beloved country, your imagination of anti-nuclear ‘activists’ might merely be of a hypocritical bunch of thumb-twiddlers waiting for disaster to win a simple argument. We don’t want another Chernobyl, Cancer Street, Pripyat, or Kopachi in your/our beloved country. We don’t want our fish to die of brine accumulation or radioactive bio-magnification. We don’t want people to disappear and houses to be buried. We want transparent, trust-worthy technology that actually cares about the breathing lives in this land and sea. We don’t want disaster. And heck if disaster happens, we truly know we have nothing in place to manage it!

sam pc

Koodankulam Press Release | October 20, 2014
KKNPP Must Tell the Whole Truth and the Director Must Go

The turbine of the first unit at the KKNPP is said to have developed some major problem. Although the first unit attained criticality in July 2013, it has not begun commercial operation yet even after 15 months of its erratic functioning. Even before starting its commercial operations “the world class third generation plant” is on the blink. It is ironic that the Department of Atomic Energy, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, KKNPP and scores of pro-government scientists have been issuing “the best and the safest” certification to this project for the past three years.

It is reliably learnt now that the faulty equipment in the turbine are being replaced and it may take a considerable amount of time to do that. It is quite pertinent to note here that there was a valve burst at the first unit a few months back and six workers were badly injured. All this attest to our claim that they have used shoddy and substandard parts at the Koodankulam project.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board tested all the equipment and their functioning so carefully and methodically and issued certificates for each step. How come they did not detect any problems with the turbine then? What kind of tests did they do? How did they give “all clear” certification? If this is the efficiency and efficacy of the AERB, we have to be really worried about the safety and security of 8 crore Tamils and 4 crore Malayalis in the southern tip of India.

It is really disconcerting that the KKNPP authorities remain tight-lipped about the excessive diesel purchase, recurrent accidents, and equipment malfunctioning that keep happening at the KKNPP. Mr. R. S. Sundar, the Site Director of the KKNPP, must resign from his job. He has been refusing to tell the truth to the people of this country and the press about the KKNPP. This is a major dereliction of duty. He would do the same mistake even if a major accident were to happen here at Koodankulam. It is not clear who he is trying to protect. It is also not clear if he does care about the safety and security of the people of this area. People in this region cannot sleep peacefully with our children with officers like Mr. Sundar in charge of a mega nuclear power park. So he must resign from his job.

Interestingly, the Russian Ambassador to India, Mr. Alexander Kadakin, has spoken recently that the Koodankulam nuclear power project is the best and the safest in the world and that his country would sell some 22 more plants to India. But today we hear that the turbine is not working at Koodankulam. The turbines the Russians had supplied to China (Tianwan) and to Iran (Busher) had serious problems too. We have strong reasons to believe that there are problems not only in the turbine of the KKNPP but also in the reactor core and other crucial areas.

When the first two reactors at Koodankulam are limping and tumbling, it would be a reckless move to erect two more reactors at the Koodankulam site. It is all too clear that the KKNPP project is a complete and total failure and it must be shut down permanently to safeguard the safety and security of the people of the southern tip of India.

People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy
Idinthakarai

Anugundu – The Atom Bomb | Documentary

Anugundu – The Atom Bomb ( Tamil with English subtitles) – YouTube. 48 minutes.

A film by Manila Mohan, a journalist with a Malayalam literary magazine, who visits the protesters in Koodankulam. The documentary details many pitfalls in the building and commissioning of the nuclear power plant in Idinthakarai, Koodankulam. It interviews many of the villagers, including women and children, who express concerns about their safety, the stupidity of such an unsafe technology, and question for whom is this development and electricity that the States promise.

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Sea Siege in Koodankulam 08 October 2012

(Photographs by Amirtharaj Stephen)

Launching another phase of their anti-nuclear protests in Koodankulam, thousands of fishermen from Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli districts began a day-long siege by placing themselves in fiber boats surrounding the area shouting slogans from 500 metres in the sea. This is a token siege as they will not be allowed to get any closer to the power plant.  PMANE convenor S P Udayakumar (quoted from Firstpost) said –

“We have been appealing to the state and central governments that this power plant is not in the best interest of safeguarding the livelihood interests of the people in the area”, he said.

Udayakumar added that the entire world was shunning nuclear power, and it was imperative that the government did not drag India in the opposite direction. “We are all for power and development but not this costly and dangerous exercise,” he said.

Speaking to the media even as the villagers of Idinthakurai prepare to launch a jal satyagraha 500m away from the site of the Kudankulam plant, PMANE convenor Udayakumar said that they were demanding that the heavy police presence at the village be withdrawn, and that charges against them be dropped.

NDTV reports

The protesters are demanding the closure of the plant, citing safety concerns. The locals say they are worried about ecological damage by radioactivity which could affect the livelihood of thousands of fishermen around the plant. Activists have also cited the Fukushima disaster in Japan, triggered by a tsunami last year, to draw parallels about the dangers of a nuclear plant. 

The villagers are also demanding the release of those arrested in an earlier protest, and taking back what they term as false cases against activists. They also want the police to be withdrawn from their villages.

The sea siege happened from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. on 08 October 2012. Over 5000 security personnel, including the Rapid Action Force, had been deployed, besides the five coast guard vessels monitoring the sea.

(click on image to view gallery)

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கூடங்குளம்: வளர்ச்சி அரசியல் வன்முறை

by Rajan Kurai Krishnan

மக்களின் போர்க்குணம் என்பது அரசியலின் அடிப்படை ஆற்றல். எல்லா காலங்களிலும் வரலாறு என்று எதையாவது யோசிக்க விரும்புபவர்களுக்கு அடிப்படை ஆதாரமாக இருப்பது மக்கள் திரண்டெழுந்து தங்கள் ஆற்றலை வெளிப்படுத்தும் தருணங்கள்தான். அந்த வகையில் கூடங்குளம் போராட்டம் நம் காலத்தின் முக்கியமான தருணம் என்பதில் எந்த ஐயமும் இருக்க முடியாது. தங்கள் வாழ்வை, வாழ்வாதாரங்களை ஒரு சிறு விபத்து அல்லது அக்கறையற்ற நிர்வாகத்தின் மூலம் நிரந்தரமாக நாசம் செய்யக்கூடியது அணு உலை என்பதை உணர்ந்த மக்கள், அரசின் மிருக பலத்திற்கும் அடக்குமுறைக்கும் அஞ்சாது போராடுவது மனதை தொடுகிறது.

ஆனால் அவர்கள் மீது வன்முறையை செலுத்துவது போலீஸ் என்றோ, அரசு என்றோ மட்டும் புரிந்துகொள்வதில் எனக்கு உடன்பாடில்லை. அந்த வன்முறையின் ஊற்றுக்கண், அந்த வன்முறையை நியாயப்படுத்தும் கருத்தொப்புமை. அந்த கருத்தொப்புமையின் பெயர் வளர்ச்சி அரசியல். வளர்ச்சி அரசியலை விமர்சித்து நிராகரிக்கும், அரசியலை மாற்றி வடிவமைக்கும் கருத்தியல் என்பது இன்று தெளிவற்றும், உருவாகாமலும், பலவீனமாகவும் உள்ளதால் கருத்தியல் ரீதியாக வலுவற்ற ஒரு அடித்தட்டு மக்கள் போராட்டமாகத்தான் கூடங்குளம் போராட்டத்தை கணிக்க முடியும்.

அணு உலையின் பாதுகாப்பு குறித்து எத்தனை சுற்று பேச்சுவார்த்தைகள் நடந்தால் என்ன? கூடங்குளம் மக்களையெல்லாம் ஜனாதிபதி மாளிகைக்கு கூட்டிச்சென்று மூன்று நாள் கருத்தரங்கம் நடத்தினால்தான் என்ன? அடிப்படையில் அணு உலை மிக ஆபத்தானது என்பதும், ஆனால் வளர்ச்சி அரசியல் அதை நிர்மாணித்தே தீரும் என்பதிலும் என்ற மாற்றமும் இல்லை. நாட்டின் முக்கிய அரசியல் கட்சிகள் அனைத்தும் வளர்ச்சி அரசியலை முழுமையாக ஏற்றுக்கொண்டு விட்டன. இந்த நிலையில் தேசமெங்கும் கோடிக்கணக்கான மக்கள், அதாவது தொழிற்சங்க கட்டமைப்புகள், நகர்புற மத்தியதர மக்கள், மாணவர்கள் அனைவரும் திரண்டு போராடினால்தான் வளர்ச்சி அரசியலின் மேலாண்மையை கட்டுப்படுத்தி அணு உலையை தடுக்க முடியும். ஆனால் முகப்புத்தகத்தில் வெளிப்படும் கருத்துக்களை பார்த்தாலே தெரியும், வளர்ச்சி அரசியல் எல்லோர் மனதையும் ஆக்கிரமித்திருப்பது. உதயகுமாருக்கு பின்னால் அந்நிய நிதியும், பன்னாட்டு கிறித்துவ அமைப்புகளும் இருப்பதாக கூசாமல் சொல்கிறார்கள். அந்நிய நிதி மற்றும் இன்றைய காந்தி வல்லுனர் ஜெயமோகன் கூடங்குளம் விஷயத்தில் அணு உலையை எதிர்த்தாலும், அப்துல் கலாம் என்ற கண்மூடித்தனமான அணு உலை ஆதரவாளர் உன்னதமான மனிதர், அவரை திட்டுபவர்கள் தேசத்துரோகிகள் என்பதில் தீர்மானமாக இருக்கிறார். கலாம் அணு உலையை ஆதரிப்பது தவறானாலும் அவருடைய கருத்துக்களுக்கு உண்மையாக இருப்பதால் உன்னத மனிதர். அணு உலை எதிர்ப்பாளர்கள் அவர்கள் கருத்தின் அடிப்படையில் அவரை தாக்கினால் அவர்கள் தேசத்துரோகிகள். இதுதான் தமிழில் வெளிப்படும் சிந்தனையின், தர்க்கத்தின் இலட்சணம்.

உண்மையில் நான் அறிந்தவரை வளர்ச்சி அரசியல் என்றால் என்ன என்பதிலேயே சிந்தனைத் தெளிவு பரவலாக இல்லை. எனக்கும் இல்லை. நான் அரை குறையாக சில பலதை படித்ததன் விளைவாக உருவான சில கேள்விகளை மீண்டும் மீண்டும் பகிர்ந்துகொள்வது மட்டுமே என்னுடைய சாத்தியமாக இருக்கிறது. ஃபுகுஷிமா அணு உலை வெடிப்பிற்கு பின் தீராநதியில் ஒரு கட்டுரை எழுதினேன். அதைப்படித்தவர்கள் என்ன நினைத்தார்கள் என்று எனக்குத் தெரியவில்லை. பலருக்கு இந்த கேள்விகளில் ஆர்வமே இல்லை.

என்னுடைய கேள்விகள் சுலபமானவை. ஒரு நாடு ஏன் பொருளாதார ரீதியாக வளர வேண்டும்? மக்களுக்கெல்லாம் உணவு, உடை, உறைவிடம் வேண்டும் என்றால் புரிகிறது. கலை, இலக்கியம் முதலிய பண்பாட்டு நடவடிக்கைகள் சிறக்க வேண்டுமென்றால் புரிகிறது. மக்களிடையே முரண்பாடுகளும் வன்முறையும் குறைந்து அன்பான சகவாழ்விற்கான ஆற்றல் அதிகரிக்க வேண்டும் என்றால் புரிகிறது. சுருக்கமாகச் சொன்னால் பொருளாதார தன்னிறைவு என்றால் புரிகிறது. பொருளாதார வளர்ச்சி என்றால் புரியவில்லை. தேசத்தின் மொத்த உற்பத்தி ஒவ்வொரு ஆண்டும் 9% அதிகரிக்க வேண்டும் என்றால் என்ன என்றே எனக்கு புரியவில்லை. எதை உற்பத்தி செய்யவேண்டும்? எதற்காக உற்பத்தியை அதிகரித்துக்கொண்டே இருக்க வேண்டும்? இப்படி உற்பத்தி தொடர்ந்து அதிகரித்தால் எல்லா மக்களும் சுபிட்சமாக சந்தோஷமாக இருப்பார்களா? அப்படி ஒன்றும் நடக்கக் காணோமே? உற்பத்தி அதிகரிப்பது என்றால் ஆதிவாசிகளும், பழங்குடியினரும் வாழ்வாதாரங்களை இழப்பது என்பதுதான் பொருளா? தேசத்தின் உற்பத்தி அதிகரிப்பதால் அவர்களுக்கு என்ன நன்மை? பெருமளவு கிராமங்களில் விவசாயக் கூலிகளாக உள்ள அடித்தட்டு மக்களான தலித் மக்களுக்கு என்ன நன்மை? தேசத்தின் உற்பத்தி இப்படி எத்தனை ஆண்டுகள் அதிகரிக்க வேண்டும்? இன்னம் பத்தாண்டுகள் தேசம் வளர்ந்தால் போதுமா? நூறாண்டுகள் வளர்ந்தால் போதுமா? இல்லை எப்போதும் ஓயாமல் வளர்ந்து கொண்டே இருக்க வேண்டும்? வளர்ச்சியடைந்த நாடுகள் வளர்ந்து முடித்துவிட்டனவா? அப்படியென்றால் அமெரிக்கா ஏன் கடுமையாக கடன்வாங்குகிறது? அங்கே இலவச உணவு கூப்பன்களை உபயோகிப்பவர்கள் எண்ணிக்கை ஏன் அதிகரிக்கிறது? அமெரிக்கா திவாலாகிவிடும் என்பது உண்மையா?  ஃபிரான்சு ஏன் பற்றாக்குறை பட்ஜெட் போடுகிறது? ஸ்பெயின், இத்தாலி போன்ற நாடுகளின் பொருளாதாரம் ஏன் தள்ளாடுகிறது? ஜப்பானில் ஏன் தற்கொலைகளின் எண்ணிக்கை அதிகரிக்கிறது? இவையெல்லாம் “வளர்ந்த” நாடுகள்தானே? அப்போது இந்தியாவும் வளர்ந்துபிறகு அப்படித்தான் இருக்குமா? அதற்கு வளராமலேயே இருக்கலாமே?

அடிப்படையில் எனக்கு பொருளாதாரமே புரியவில்லை என்பதுதான் பிரச்சினை. படிக்காததால் புரியவில்லை என்பதல்ல. படிக்க, படிக்க புரியாமை அதிகரித்துக்கொண்டே போவதுதான் பிரச்சினை. ஆனால் நாம் வாழ்வதோ அரசியல் என்பதே பொருளாதாரம்தான் என்று முடிவாகிவிட்ட காலம். பங்குச்சந்தை நிலவரங்கள் புனிதமான அந்தஸ்தை பெற்றுவிட்டன. தேசத்தின் ஆரோக்கியமே பங்குச்சந்தை குறியீட்டு எண்ணில்தான் இருக்கிறது. தமிழ் தொலைக்காட்சிகளிலும் இப்போது பங்குச்சந்தை நிலவரங்களை விரிவாகச் சொல்கிறார்கள். எனக்கு மாட்டு சந்தை, காய்கறி சந்தை எல்லாம் புரிகிறது. பங்கு சந்தை என்றால் என்னவென்றே புரியவில்லை. அதை விளக்கி ஏன் பங்குச்சந்தை தேசத்தின் ஆரோக்கியத்தின் அறிகுறி என்று யாராவது சொல்லித் தந்தால் பரவாயில்லை.

ஆனால் எனக்கு ஒன்று புரிகிறது. பங்குச்சந்தை வளர்ச்சி என்பது முதலீட்டின் பெருக்கம். முதலீடு பெருகினால் அது சும்மாயிருக்க முடியாது. எதையாவது உற்பத்தி செய்துதான் தீரவேண்டும். உற்பத்தியாகும் பொருட்களை யாராவது நுகர்ந்துதான் தீரவேண்டும். ஒட்டுமொத்தமாக உற்பத்தியும், நுகர்வும் அதிகரித்துக்கொண்டே இருப்பதுதான் பொருளாதார வளர்ச்சி. எனக்கு இதில் எந்த ஐயமும் இல்லை. பிரச்சினைதான் இருக்கிறது. நுகர்வு தேவையா? உற்பத்தி தேவையா என்ற கேள்வியை யார் கேட்பது? முதலீட்டியத்தின் ஆரம்பகட்ட வளர்ச்சியில் சக்கரை என்ற, அதுவரை மானுடம் பொருட்படுத்தியிராத வஸ்துவின் புதிய வடிவத்தை எல்லோர் வாழ்க்கையிலும் தேநீர், காப்பியின் மூலம் இன்றியமையாததாக மாற்றியிதற்கு முக்கிய பங்கு இருக்கிறது. அந்த காலத்தில் காப்பி இல்லை; தேநீர் இல்லை என்பது மட்டுமல்ல – சக்கரையும் இந்த வடிவில் இருக்கவில்லை. அடுத்தது புகையிலை. அது பற்றி நான் கூறவேண்டியதில்லை. உங்களுக்கே தெரியும். அல்லது சர்ச்சில் உறையூர் சுருட்டுத்தான் குடிப்பார் என்று பெருமைப்படுவதை கடந்து, புகையிலை என்றால் என்ன என்று யோசிக்கத்தொடங்கினால் புரியும். சோழர் காலத்தில் என்ன உறையூரில் புகையிலையா பயிரிட்டார்கள்?தேவையற்ற பொருள்களை இன்றியமையாததாக மாற்றி அவற்றின் உற்பத்தியையும், நுகர்வையும் பெருக்குவதுதான் முதலீட்டியம் என்று நான் புரிந்துகொள்கிறேன். அதன் முற்றிய வடிவம்தான் அணு உலை.

அணு உலைக்கு மாற்றாக காற்றாடிகள், சூரிய ஒளி போன்ற சுய பெருக்கம் செய்துகொள்ளும் (renewable) ஆற்றல்களின் மூலம் மின்சாரம் தயாரிக்கலாமே என்று சொல்பவர்கள் வளர்ச்சி அரசியலை புரிந்துகொள்வதில்லை. மின்சாரத்தேவை என்பது ஏதோ ஒரு நிலையான அளவினை கொண்டது  என்பதுபோலவும், அந்த நிலையான அளவினை எந்த வகையில் பெறலாம் என்பது போலவும் பேசமுடியாது. ஆண்டுக்கு ஒன்பது சதவீத வளர்ச்சி என்பது இப்போதைய இலட்சியம்தான். அஹுலிவாலியாவுக்கு பதில் பஹூலிவாலியா வரும்போது பன்னிரண்டு சதவீத அல்லது இருபது சதவீத வளர்ச்சி அவசியம் என்று முடிவு செய்யலாம். ஆகவே எப்படியெல்லாம் மின்சாரம் தயாரிக்க முடியுமோ அப்படியெல்லாம் தயாரித்துத்தான் தீரவேண்டும். உலக அளவில் உற்பத்தி செய்யச் சாத்தியமான அனைத்தையும் உற்பத்தி செய்துதான் தீரவேண்டும். உற்பத்தி பொருட்களில் ஒன்றுதான் அணு உலை. அவற்றை உபயோகித்துதான் தீரவேண்டும். அணு ஆயுதங்களையும் ஆத்திர அவசரத்திற்கு தயாரித்து வைத்துக்கொள்ள வேண்டும். ஆயுதங்கள் போணியாகவில்லையென்றால் இரண்டு நாடுகளிடையே பிரச்சினைகளை கிளப்பி அவற்றை விற்றாகவேண்டும். போதைப்பொருட்கள், கள்ள மார்கெட் ஆயுதங்கள், மாஃபியா, கிரிமினல் கும்பல்கள் என்ற நிழல் பொருளாதாரத்தை கட்டமைக்க வேண்டும். வளர்ச்சி என்றால் சும்மாவா? பிரமாதமாக நம் நகங்களை பாலிஷ் போட்டு வளர்த்து நம் கண்ணையே குத்திக்கொள்ளும் கலை அல்லவா அது?

நாளைய காந்தி  

காந்தியை மறுவாசிப்பு செய்வதென்பது இந்திய சிந்தனையாளர்களின் வாழ்வில் தவிர்க்க முடியாத ஒரு காலகட்டம் (அதாவது அவர்கள் தொடர்ந்து சிந்தித்தால்). தமிழ் சிந்தனையாளர்களும் அதற்கு விதிவிலக்கல்ல. மறுவாசிப்பு இப்படித்தான் இருக்க வேண்டும் என்பதல்ல. ஏதோவொரு விதத்தில் அதை தவிர்க்க முடியாது என்பதுதான். காந்தியை வாசிப்பதில் பல சிக்கல்கள் இருக்கின்றன. சமகால வாசிப்பில் பல ஒவ்வாமைகளை நாம் சந்திக்கத்தான் வேண்டியிருக்கும். ஆனால் காந்தியின் சிந்தனைகளில் புறக்கணிக்க முடியாத சில அம்சங்கள் இருக்கின்றன. அவரது “இந்து சுயராஜ்யம்” என்ற நூல் இந்த வகையில் முக்கியமானது. இதை நான் குறிப்பிடுவது பலருக்கு பிடிக்காது என்று எனக்குத் தெரியும். இந்துத்துவ சிந்தனை மரபு அவரைக் கொன்றே போட்டது. மார்க்ஸீய, நேரூவிய, பெரியாரிய, அம்பேத்கரிய விமர்சன மரபுகள் காந்தியின் சிந்தனைகளுக்கு எதிராக பல முக்கிய கருத்துக்களை வைத்துள்ளன. ஆனால் இவற்றையெல்லாம் அங்கீகரித்த பின்னும், பல விமர்சனங்களை ஏற்றுக்கொண்ட பின்னும் வளர்ச்சி அரசியலை புரிந்துகொள்ள நமக்கு காந்தி முக்கியமான ஆதாரமாகிறார்.

இந்து சுயராஜ்யம் நூலின் மூலம் காந்தி மிக முக்கியமான திருப்புமுனையை இந்திய அரசியலில் ஏற்படுத்தினார். அதுவரை வெள்ளைக்காரர்களிடம் அதிகாரப் பகர்வு, சுயாட்சி என்ற அடிப்படையில் இயங்கி வந்த அரசியல் சொல்லாடலை முற்றிலும் புதிய திசையில் திருப்பினார். வெள்ளைக்காரர்கள் இந்தியாவில் இருப்பதோ, ஆட்சி செய்வதோ பிரச்சினையில்லை, ஆனால் அவர்கள் நாட்டின் நவீன உற்பத்தி முறை மற்றும் அரசியல் நிர்வாக அம்சங்களை இங்கே இறக்குமதி செய்யக்கூடாது என்றார். வேறு வார்த்தைகளில் சொன்னால் இந்திய மக்கள் அவர்கள் வாழ்வை மேற்குலகிலிருந்து வேறுபட்ட விதத்தில் வடிவமைத்துக்கொள்ளும் உரிமையைப் பெறுவதே சுயாரஜ்யம் என்றார். எல்லா தீர்க்கதரிசிகளுக்கும் நடப்பது போலவே அவர் மஹாத்மாவாக்கப்பட்டார், ஆனால் அவர் கருத்திற்கு நேர்மாறாக ஆட்சியதிகாரம் மட்டுமே இந்தியர்கள் கைக்கு வந்தது. இந்தியா மேற்கத்திய உற்பத்தி மற்றும் நிர்வாக வழிமுறைகளை பின்பற்றத் தொடங்கியது. இந்தியா வல்லரசாக மாறவேண்டும் என்பது அனைவரும் சூல்கொள்ள வேண்டிய மனக்கிடக்கையாக மாறியது. எதற்காக இந்தியா வல்லரசாக வேண்டும்; உகாண்டாவோ, சிலியோ, நேபாளமோ, மாலத்தீவோ உலக வல்லரசாக மாற முடியுமா? அப்படி மாறாததால் அவர்களுக்கு ஏதாவது பிரச்சினையா என்று யாரும் யோசிப்பது சாத்தியமற்றுப் போனது. முதலீட்டிய நவீன தேசிய அரசு என்ற நோய் எங்கும் பரவியது.

வளர்ச்சி என்பது என்ன, எதற்காக எந்த அளவு அது தேவை, மின்சாரம் என்பது இன்றியமையாததா, நம்முடைய மின்சாரப் பயன்பாடுகளில் எவையெல்லாம், எந்தக்காரணங்களால் இன்றியமையாதவை என்பதையெல்லாம் கேட்காமல் அணு உலையை எதிர்ப்பதற்கான தத்துவ தளத்தை உருவாக்க முடியாது. இல்லையென்றால் “சாலையில் போனால் விபத்து நடக்கலாம் என்பதற்காக சாலையில் போகாமல் இருக்க முடியுமா?” என்பது போன்ற அபத்தமான, சோப்ளாங்கி தர்க்கங்கள்கூட அணு உலை எதிர்ப்பை பரவாமல் தடுத்துவிடும். அணு உலை எவ்வளவு அபாயமானது என்பதை மட்டும் பிரசாரம் செய்வது ஒரு பக்கச் சார்பானது. அந்த ஆபத்தை எதற்காக நாம் எதிர்கொள்ளவேண்டும் என்ற கேள்வியை முன்னெடுக்க வேண்டும். பொருளாதார வளர்ச்சி என்றால் என்ன, எதற்காக என்ற கேள்வியை கையிலெடுக்காமல் அணு உலை எதிர்ப்பிற்கான தத்துவ அடிப்படைகளை வலுப்படுத்த முடியாது. இருபத்திரண்டு வயதில் இந்து சுயராஜ்யம் படித்தபோது “மனிதனுக்கு கால்கள் போதுமென்றுதான் கடவுள் அவற்றைக் கொடுத்திருக்கிறார்; சக்கரங்கள் தேவையென்றால் கால்களுக்குப் பதில் சக்கரங்களை வைத்திருப்பார்” என்ற காந்தியின் வரிகளைப் படித்துவிட்டு வாய்விட்டுச் சிரித்தேன். ஆனால் அந்த வரிகளில் தேவை எது, இன்றியமையாதது எது என்பதை வேறுபடுத்திப் பார்க்கச்சொல்லும் தத்துவம் ஒளிந்திருப்பது இப்போதுதான் புரிகிறது.

நம்மால் செய்வதற்குச் சாத்தியமானதையெல்லாம் நாம் செய்தாகவேண்டயது அவசியமில்லை. தலைமுடியுடன் ஆட்டுக்கல்லை இணைத்துக்கட்டி இழுக்கலாம் என்பதால் தினசரி அதை செய்யவேண்டியதில்லை. அதே போல உற்பத்தி செய்ய முடிவதையெல்லாம் உற்பத்தி செய்தாக வேண்டும், நுகர முடிவதையெல்லாம் நுகர்ந்தாக வேண்டும் என்பது அவசியமில்லை. முதலீட்டியத்தின் பத்மாசுர வடிவம் அதைத்தான் செய்கிறது. யார் தலையில் கைவைத்தாலும் அவர்களை அழிக்கும் ஆற்றலை பெற்ற பத்மாசுரன் தன் தலையில் தானே கையை வைத்துக்கொண்டு அழிந்தான். ஆனால் முதலீட்டியம் தன் தலையில் தானே கைவைத்துக்கொள்ளும்போது அழியப்போவது அதை செயல்படுத்தும் மானுடம்தான்.

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Views represented in this piece belong to the author and not everyone part of Chai Kadai. It is presented here as it is a necessary analysis to add to the dialogue on energy, violence and development. Please share. 

(will be translated in English soon)

Confirmed Updates, Idinthakarai, Koodankulam: 11 September 2012. 10.00 a.m.

Given the large number of conflicting reports that have been making the rounds, a few of us — informed by reliable local sources — have attempted to reconstruct the events leading up to the current situation based on confirmed information. Information, where unconfirmed, is indicated.

Based on eye-witness reports by Amrithraj Stephen, interviews by Nityanand Jayaraman, Revathi and Amritharaj, and updates and articles published on internet.

Police violence on peaceful protesters in Koodankulam – An update

RECENT UPDATE:

Friends in the media have reported that all top police brass have gathered in Koodankulam to chalk out a strategy to wipe out the movement. According to the media sources, intelligence officials are reporting that two women police are missing and are untraceable. Villagers say that no policepersons have been taken hostage. It is feared that this rumour is being used to fuel public opinion against the protestors and to justify any repressive action by the police against villagers. In this context, to pre-empt any untoward incident, Mr. S.P. Udayakumar has announced that key leaders of the movement will surrender tonight at Koodankulam Police Station in the presence of prominent political leaders.

YESTERDAY’S GOINGS ON

Responding to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s clearance to commence nuclear fuel loading in the Koodankulam plant, the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy announced that protestors would lay siege to the plant on 9 September. Police force was deployed in huge numbers in the area. On that day, between 8000 and 10000 people, including children and women from Idinthakarai and neighbouring villages started from the Lourde Matha church in Idinthakarai. They walked down the coastal path avoiding the road route and were stopped by the police around 800 metres away from the plant. The protesters sat down on the sea shore and said they will continue their struggle from there. S.P.Udayakumar, co-ordinator of the struggle committee, announced that they want the Tamilnadu government to intervene and respond to the demands of the protesting masses. All the protesters stayed put on the sea shore braving the weather and other hardships.

On the morning of the 10th of september, the police came in with the strike force resorted to a tentative lathi charge around 10.30 am. After a scuffle that lasted a few minutes, police withdrew to a distance and uneasy calm prevailed. “The situation is back to normal,” a protestor told us at 10.30, as if anything about the situation could be considered normal. The congregation of mostly baton-wielding police forces swelled in size. A large riot-gear bedecked police force was in the frontline facing the people, and tear gas lobbers were on stand-by.

After sometime two young men on a fibre boat tried to go towards KKNP. The protesters were against this and took permission from the police and went towards the young men and spoke them back to the place they were all sitting. As the two young men came back the police according to the Tirunelveli SP Vijendra Bidari’s orders, nabbed them. This caused unrest amongst the protesters and they argued with the police, asking why they’re arresting them after they have come back. Around this time at 11.30 Tirunelveli SP Vijendra Bidari announced the protesters to disperse in ten minutes failing which police will take action.

Women formed the first line of protestors and were closest to the plant, while the children and men strung out along the beach towards the Idinthakarai village. Just before the strike began, DIG Rajesh Das instructed the strike force to move towards the centre of the congregation and enter from the centre so as to divide the women and men.

As people all over Tamilnadu and elsewhere were watching this live on television, and even as the reporter was announcing that the ten minute countdown has started we could see tear gas shells being lobbed at the protesters. According to protester who was at the site, “A small commotion over policemen pushing two volunteer youth started and a few women shouted at the police men and a crowd gathered around them. Police men ran towards there and started lathi charge. Even before we could realise, tear gas shells were lobbed at us.”

As we could see from the live telecast, many teargas shells were lobbed and police went into the crowd in force and resorted to heavy lathicharging. Caught between a tide of armed police and the ocean, women and children tried to throw handsful of sand at the policemen to escape lathi blows; children were caught in the melee. A large number of men jumped into the sea, even as members of the Rapid Action Force were caught on television pelting stones,sticks and slippers at those at sea. The police were threatening those wading in the sea with death and bodily harm upon their return to the beach. At one point, the source of this information heard a policeman pointing out to a youth holding a mobile phone and shouting that he was holding a bomb. The source intervened to point out that it was a mobile phone.

Sahaya Initha, a prominent leader of the movement and a ward councillor, was targetted by the police and badly injured.

In a television interview, S.P. Udayakumar, who had by then moved to safety, said that he had been shot at. This incident was confirmed by other by-standers who said that shots were fired at the fibre boat in which Udayakumar was attempting to leave the site.

Media People Injured

Several media persons were injured, and at least one cameraman from Times Now was intentionally targetted. With most of the action centred around the seashore, a separate posse of policemen went about systematically breaking the vehicles used by protestors to come to the protest site. Only one cameraman, from Times Now, was present videographing the actions. The police attacked him causing serious injuries. He required at least four stitches above his eyebrow. His camera was destroyed and thrown into the sea, and the videotape reportedly removed.

Unconfirmed reports state that the motorcycles belonging to three media persons were also damaged in the police action.

A Dinakaran reporter was roughed up, and the Makkal TV reporter was pushed into the thorns.

Police Vandalism

Following in the heels of the departing people, the police also systematically destroyed the expensive outboard engines on the boats parked on the beach. One constable was working to set fire to the pandal, but stopped when he saw a photographer (the source of this information) poised to capture his act on camera. The photographer then alerted the Puthiya Thalaimurai reporter Mr. Ramanujam. The constable tried one more time before giving up, and angrily told the photographer that the latter was disrupting his work. The pandal on the seashore was pulled down. The lights and speakers were broken. Sand was thrown in the food that was prepared for lunch by the protestors.

Entering Idinthakarai

During the course of the melee at the seaside, a separate force of about 400 police persons entered the Idinthakarai village. The media was busy covering the riot-like situation on the coast and did not accompany the police force that went to Idinthakarai village. The police went door-to-door searching for men. When they reached the seaside, they saw about 150 to 200 youth gathered there. The youth dived into the sea to take refuge, while the police opened fire and taunted them from the shore threatening them with dire consequences when they return to shore.

Church Desecrated

It was during this time that the police desecrated the Lourdu Matha shrine. Idols were broken. Policemen spat andurinated inside the church. The pandal (tent) erected to provide shelter to the protestors was pulled down, and the lights vandalized. The water cans were broken. The Tamil Nadu Water and Drainage Board’s public water supply point in Koodankulam village too was reportedly broken.

Women who were watching the goings-on from hidden vantage points also reported that unknown men in white dhotis and shirts were seen stoning police vehicles with the police photographing the same.

News reports stated that the Panchayat office and the local TASMAC (Government-owned wine shop) in Koodankulam were set on fire by the villagers. However, the villagers in Koodankulam insist that no such incident happened. They admit that the awning (asbestos shelter) protruding from the wine shop was damaged. But neither the Panchayat office nor the TASMAC shop were set on fire or damaged.

Later in the evening around sixty five people were arrested from the Koodankulam village. Between 2.00 pm and 3.00 pm the police carried out a house to house search.

Last evening, the police entered the Tsunami Colony in Idinthakarai and conducted a door-to-door search. They also reported damaged a few of the houses.

Current Situation

An uneasy calm prevails. Essential supplies to Idinthakarai village have been blocked. All of yesterday, there was no water, especially since the water reserve was emptied by the police forces. As of 9.30 a.m. on 11 September, no supplies have been allowed to reach the village from beyond Thomas Mandapam, the location of the police barricade. One tractor-load of water was brought in at around 9.30 a.m. from a local source.

At the end of 10.09.2012, we got news that electricity connection to 5 villages has been cut off. Reports say that phone lines many of the villagers are being tapped in order to locate UdayaKumar and the struggle commitee leaders.

Within hours of the police crackdown, protests across the fishing villages across Southern Tamilnadu spread like wildfire. One fisherman, Anthony Samy (40 years) was shot dead in Manappad village, Thoothukudi district. More than 10,000 protestors staged a rail roko at Thoothukudi station delaying the Mysore Express by more than 2 hours.

Injuries, Arrests and Hospitalisations

Many people were arrested at the seashore. Following are the names of some of the people who were arrested:

Sundari; Xavier Amma; Selvi; Bedlin (Kootapuli); Lourdusamy; Rose

A journalist source reported to Dianuke.org that the DIG Rajesh Das had told him that 25 people were arrested yesterday.

One child from Koodankulam was reportedly hit on the head by a tear gas shell, and is said to be in a critical stage in the Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital. At the time of writing (September 11. 10 a.m.), no confirmation could be obtained about this incident.

The following is a list of people currently hospitalised at the Lourdu Matha Hospital in Idinthakarai:

1. Gnanaprakasam, Male, 80

  1. David, M. 49. Idinthakarai
  2. Gloudin, M, 35, Idinthakarai
  3. Jeniker, M, 26, Idinthakarai
  4. Selvan, M, age not known, Idinthakarai
  5. Joseph, M, 47, village not known
  6. Michael, M, 28, Koothenkuli
  7. Valan, M, 23, Koothenkuli
  8. Thangasamy, M, age not known, Koodankulam
  9. Jeniker, M, 24, Idinthakarai
  10. Kennedy, M, 50, Idinthakarai
  11. Mahiban, M, 3, Idinthakarai
  12. Initha, F, age not known, Idinthakarai
  13. Chennammal, F, Idinthakarai
  14. Jesu Ammal, F, Idinthakarai

Three people hospitalised in Lourdu Matha Hospital, Idinthakarai, were subsequently transferred by the police to a different location. But their current whereabouts are not known. The three people are:

1. Selson, M, Idinthakarai

2. Siluvai John, M, Koothenkuli

3. Jesu, M, Idinthakarai

Sahaya Initha

Anti- nuke activists arrested: 3 anti- nuke activists Suseendaran, Vivekanandan and Thirumurugan were arrested by the DC Saidapet when they went to extend solidarity for the protesting students of Nandanam Arts and Science College. They were released at around 7:30 p.m.

Tamil Nadu has a long tradition of using excessive force to quell protests particularly by marginalised communities. In 1999, 17 dalit tea estate workers were chased into the River Thamiraparani in Tirunelveli district by a baton-charging police force which had descended to quell a strike demanding better working conditions. Exactly a year ago, in Paramakudi, the police violently broke up a dalit gathering to honour their leader Immanuel Sekaran’s, gave hot chase to fleeing people, and shot and killed six dalits and injured more than 30.

Solidarity Protests:

Chennai:

  • Students from Nandanam Arts and Science College staged a lock-in at their campus .
  • Human Rights Protection Council staged a dharna at the Madras High Court.
  • Ma Kaa Ee ka, staged a protest at Panagal Malligai and news report say that 30 people were arrrested.
  • Manitha Neya Makkal Katchi staged a protest in Parry’s Corner and news reports state that 300 were arrested.
  • Amidst heavy police presence, a dozen protestors submitted RTI applications at the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd’s office in Egmore, Chennai, demanding information within 2 days because the matter concerns the lives and liberties of local residents.

Tiruchi:

  • Advocates protested at the TIruchi District Court campus.
  • Ma Kaa Ee Kaa staged a protest at Tiruchi Bus Station along with support groups.

Coimbatore:

  • Law college students staged a protest and were lathi charged and dispersed.

Kumbakonam:

  • Members of Naam Thamizhar blocked a road.

Thoothukudi:

  • Nearly 10,000 people, including a large number of fisherfolk, are reported to have staged a protest in front of the Lady of Snows Church in Thoothukudi. All nationalised banks pulled down their shutters in solidarity.
  • Protestors also staged a rail roko and blocked the Mysore express train.

Kanyakumari

  • Fishing boats observed a no-fishing day. The harbour is closed even today (11 September, 2012)

Manappad, Thoothukudi district

  • Fisherfolk rallied against police atrocities. One man shot dead.

Periyathazhai and Uvari, Thoothukudi district

  • Spontaneous protests by fisherfolk against police action

Tirunelveli

  • Naam Thamizhar and other supporters blockaded the main road near the Tirunelveli junction. About 40 protestors were detained and released in the evening.

New Delhi:

  • Koodankulam solidarity protest took place in front of the TamilNadu Bhavan, New Delhi.

Pune

  • Lokayat organised a protest.

No Celebration Goes Unpunished

By Nityanand Jayaraman

A few days ago, India celebrated its 60th year of parliamentary democracy. Meanwhile, in many corners of the country, democracy was being celebrated through the fundamental acts of standing up and speaking out. In Jagatsinhpur, Orissa, a community had closed itself within the village of Dhinkia refusing to yield to police pressure, enticements and threats, and refusing to allow the Korean steel major POSCO to take over their fertile lands to set up a steel plant. A courageous tribal teacher – Soni Sori – is being treated in a hospital in Delhi. She celebrated democracy by speaking out against maoists and the armed police in Chattisgarh. For this, the police shoved stones down her vagina, after our judiciary in Delhi handed her over to police custody despite her fears that she’d be tortured in custody. The survivors in Bhopal — who have seen nearly a dozen prime ministers and their false promises, more than a 1000 demonstrations, several dozen hunger strikes, more than 2000 kms in padayatras — staged a rail blockade last December, a few days before the 26th anniversary of the disaster. They wished to pressure the State Government and the Indian Government to present true figures of the numbers of people injured or killed. The state response was brutal: lathi charge, tear gas lobbed. Cases of attempt to murder and wielding deadly weapons were lodged against more than 2000 people, including 80-year old women barely capable of wielding their walking sticks.

In Koodankulam, Tamilnadu, fisherfolk, farmers and traders who are voicing their concerns over the risks posed by a nuclear power plant in their neighbourhood are being hounded by the State. A total of 287 FIRs have been filed in just one police station – Koodankulam P.S. – between September 2011 and April 2012 implicating more than 55000 people. The criminal charges foisted on them range from unlawful assembly to sedition and waging war against the state. At least 3500 people are known to have been charged with sedition and waging war against the state. Details of 178 FIRs are not yet available. FIRs are not being disclosed. One has to go to court to get a copy of the FIRs. Holding demonstrations, conducting hall meetings, printing posters, distributing handbills and voicing opinions critical of nuclear energy [are all] banned in the district of Tirunelveli. The restrictions are relaxed as you move away from the epicentre. But they can still be felt even in Chennai where the police denies permission for protests against nuclear energy.

Such a crackdown on free speech needs to be condemned by all who set store by democratic values. But we live in curious times. Even the media condones this intrusion into the most fundamental of constitutional rights. The media rightly resisted the dangerous proposals by the Supreme Court or the Press Council chairman to regulate and control media freedom in this country.  Yet the same media condones and even participates in the denial of [the rights of] Idinthakarai residents to speak out against a project that they feel will change their lives forever, for the worse. Regardless of one’s point of view on nuclear energy, the assault on free speech requires greater scrutiny and critique.

On 14 May, 2012, Chennai Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Struggle organised a public hearing. Justice (Retd) A.P. Shah, former Chief Justice of Madras and Delhi High Courts, presided over the hearings. Advocate Geeta Ramaseshan and Prof. Prabha Kalvimani assisted him. In the course of the hearings, members of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy deposed live from Idinthakarai over skype. Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan deposed live from Delhi over skype. Twelve people from villages around Idinthakarai spoke about how their lives have been made living hell by the police and intelligence officers. Lawyers assisting and observing the abuse of the Indian Penal Code submitted analyses of the cases against the protestors. Human Rights Protection Committee, the organisation that is assisting the protestors with their bail applications, presented an analyses and their experiences, while People’s Union of Civil Liberties made a submission on the absurdity of the cases filed. Meera Udayakumar, wife of PMANE convenor S.P. Udayakumar, and Porkodi, wife of Muhilan, an activist that has been in jail and denied bail since 19 March, spoke about the harassments and psychological trauma they have faced in the last few months. Revathi, a friend of Satish Kumar – the other young activist jailed for having the gumption to speak out – spoke about how Satish was blindfolded and beaten, hand-cuffed and led to court as if he was a terrorist. All this, for the crime of speaking out.

The public hearing was livestreamed, and a recorded version of the proceedings can be viewed at livestream.com.

Below is the transcript of the interim statement given by Justice (Retd) AP Shah to the media at a press briefing after the public hearing. The final report is to be released within a week.

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STATEMENT OF JUSTICE AJIT PRAKASH SHAH

It is very easy for all of us – I stay in Delhi; I need a/c; I need electricity as do all of you from Madras. We are away from Koodankulam. Those 70,000 farmers and those fishermen; who cares for them? Life is very cheap in our country. So we think in our terms. “Oh, there is electricity shortage. What should we do?” We don’t even think about it. It is only 2.36 percent that comes from nuclear energy. There are ways and means [of generating electricity from other sources], but I’ll not go into that. Lastly, about the risk factor. Japan, just imagine, it is one of the most advanced countries, and till the accident happened, they claimed that their nuclear reactors are absolutely safe. And then, the Japanese Government has decided to abandon nuclear energy altogether. And there are four other countries which have put a moratorium on nuclear energy – Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Three countries. They have declared that they will not be using nuclear energy from now on. I don’t want to enter into any kind of argument with [our scientists]. I have great respect for them. They say there is zero percent chance of any mishap. That is too tall a claim. When they say that there is zero percent chance, they also say that “we’ll have a review of all the projects, all the nuclear power plants.” So naturally, there is a fear. Now, on this fact alone, there is a worldwide concern over nuclear energy. You want to contain these 70,000 people, because they protest against nuclear energy? And what is it that they want to say? See their demands. Very reasonable. Every project, even a project involving 50 crore rupees on public land is required to conduct a public hearing and a EIA — environmental impact assessment. You won’t believe this, but EIA for Koodankulam project was conducted in 1988 – 22 years back, when there were no rules. And the EIA was required only for the allocation of money from the Planning Commission. There was no people’s hearing. There was nothing. So, even that EIA was not released to the people. They should conduct a fresh EIA. That is their demand.

The second demand is – they have conducted a safety analysis. So why not release it to them? Let the people understand that they have conducted the analysis, and that these are the issues. Please talk to them, and satisfy them that it is not. . .that it is risk-free or relatively risk-free. The next is site evaluation. There has been concern on this, because this comes in a seismic area. That is the claim. That report is also not available to people. I want to tell you that Areva’s CEO came to India. Areva is the company which is setting up plants in Jaitapur. According to him, whenever you put up a power plant, you should do it in consultation with people, because people should be completely convinced that there is no risk to their lives. Now, you don’t even supply to them the basic documents. Secondly, what about the risks? Suppose that something happens. What is the great hurry in rushing with the project?

In a democratic country, we have the right of a peaceful protest; right to assemble is a fundamental right; right to gather in a public place and protest is a fundamental right if it is not disturbing the public tranquility. The right to free speech and expression is the most fundamental right of all. Supreme Court says that – there is no hierarchy of rights but it is the arc of all fundamental rights. It is definitely the most fundamental of rights. I have certain views. People may say that nuclear energy is good for the country, and some people may say that it is bad for the country. When I say that I have serious doubts about nuclear energy, will you brand me as anti-patriotic, as anti-national, as a person who should be charged with sedition or waging war against the state? What have these people done? They have protested against this particular plant. And there is not a single incident of violence. And what have the state authorities done? There are analyses produced before us of the cases instituted against them. Can any one of you explain to me how a peaceful protest against a nuclear plant, where people say that “we do not want a nuclear plant in our place,” amounts to sedition? Which ingredient of sedition is established here? Then you also invoke the provision related to waging war against the country. Where is the question of waging war against the country? They are residing there. They are concerned. In Chernobyl, the entire area – Chernobyl happened in 1986. Today, the entire area in 30 km radius is not permissible for human habitation. The reason is that the radiation effects are lingering. People are afraid. They are asking questions to you. And then, apart from anything else, you go on filing cases against them, not only cases are filed, but the other thing is cases against whom? There are thousands of people. Every possible provision in IPC is invoked. And then, you don’t investigate the cases. Those that are [not clear] you ensure that they don’t get bail. You are slapping new charges against them. Not only that. Bus service is curtailed. Other facilities are denied. Most shockingly, a professor came here, an associate professor of [Manonmaniam] Sundaranar University. He said they wanted to organise a debate on nuclear energy. So the IB chief warned them “what business? You should not hold this debate.” So you cannot have a discussion on this? Are we living in a democratic country or not?

We celebrated with great flourish the 60th year of parliamentary democracy. Is it parliamentary democracy that when a person is peacefully protesting, you file FIRs against him under most sections under IPC? It is not fair. It is not the way state authorities should deal with citizens. These citizens have some serious concerns. Here, they say Christian community. In Jaitapur, there are no christian communities. In Jaitapur, what I heard is something extraordinary. They say that people from outside Jaitapur are coming there. This is one country. So why cannot we go?

According to me, if you want the proof that democracy is alive in this country, I would say that this 70,000 people’s protest or their protest is an indication that there is a democracy in this country. We can debate and protest. They can continue with their protest for ten years. You must talk to them. I’m saying. . .my suggestion, my appeal to the state authorities, and my appeal also to those who are sitting on fast, is please withdraw these. Let them withdraw their agitation. Let the documents, whatever is possible – I’m not saying the Information Commission has said all these documents have to be given, that is ultimately for the courts to decide – but where there is no national security, no issues, information should be given to people. Please talk to them. Please understand their grievances. Perhaps, they will accept. They will be convinced. When you say that democracy is by the people, for the people, of the people, you cannot ignore people’s protest in this fashion. We, living in cities, we have no right to condemn this agitation because our interest is in a different sense — that electricity supply will be augmented etc.

I feel that it is high time that both the state authorities and the agitators should change their positions and have a dialogue. It doesn’t augur well for the country where a section, a sizable section of people are persecuted because they are opposed to a certain project.

Urgent Message from Idinthakarai – Koodankulam Update

Arrest Alert

Curfew orders have just been promulgated in our area once again right after our planning meetings with the youth, women, community elders and the Idinthakarai village committee on May 8, 2012. Thousands of police personnel are being posted in and around Koodankulam in haste. We get reliable tips that the authorities are planning to clamp down our protest and arrest all of us, possibly tonight. Such a pre-dawn operation that the government usually does could be bloody as thousands of men, women and children from several villages are sleeping around the Church at Idinthakarai.

This action may be planned to cover up a recent accident at the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). It is said that two young men, Sivakumar and Esakkimuthu, were injured on May 4 in an alleged blast at KKNPP and they were admitted in a private hospital at Anjugramam. Dr. Tamilarasu who treated the men confirmed the accident according to a newspaper report (The Indian Express, May 8, 2012). One of the young men’s fathers talked to the Puthiya Thalaimurai television on May 8, 2012 that he was not even allowed to see his son.

On May 8, 2012, we also held a Press Meet at Idinthakarai at 4:00 PM in which we produced the ledgers with tens of thousands of signatures of people from some 60 villages opposing the KKNPP. This is a clear proof that the central and state governments are acting against the will of the local people and are thrusting the dangerous nuclear power project down our throats in an authoritarian and arrogant manner. We also produced some 24,000 voter ID cards that the people had surrendered in protest against the governments’ callous attitude towards the 302 women and 35 men indefinite hunger strikers. As the Indian government and the state governments do not respect ordinary people’s lives and interests in India, we also launched the “Respect India” Campaign along the lines of Mahatma Gandhi’s “Quit India” campaign of 1942.

The Tamil Nadu police have been harassing local people when they close their shops in support of our protests or when they travel to neighboring villages. The police take individual pot shots of the people, shoot group photos, take down the vehicle numbers, abuse with foul language and intimidate them. When a curfew was imposed earlier on our area by the Tamil Nadu government on March 19, 2012, the authorities divided the local communities by announcing a Rs. 500 crore bribery package to the local bodies, stifled news reports on us by silencing the media and isolated the people by distancing the Church.

It is so strange and unfortunate that the central and state governments treat us, nonviolent and democratic Gandhian activists, as some kind of dangerous extremists. The hunger strikers are very weak and feeble but they refuse to give up without getting our demands fulfilled. Instead of talking to us, the Tamil Nadu government seems to be preparing for a highhanded behavior and violence to put us all down.

 

Please contact the following officers and demand justice for our people:

[1] Dr. R. Selvaraj, District Collector, Tirunelveli District, Tirunelveli. Phone: 91-462-2500828; Fax: 91-462-2500224; Mobile: 91-9444185000; Email:collrtnv@nic.in

[2] Mr. V. Varadharaju; Phone: 91-462-2568031; Mobile: 91-9840970530; Email: digtinrg@yahoo.co.in

[3] Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Fort St. George, Chennai 600 009, India; Phones: 91-44-25672345 (W); 91-44-25670215 (H); Faxes: 91-44-28133510; 25676929; 25671441; 28130787.

[4] Mr. Debendranath Sarangi, Chief Secretary; Phone: 91-44-25671555; Fax: 91-44-25672304; Email: cs@tn.gov.in

[5] Dr. Sheela Priya, Additional Chief Secretary; Phone: 91-44-25674234; Fax: 91-44-25675163. Email: cmcell@tn.gov.in

 

The Struggle Committee,

People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy

Koodankulam: Curb on Free Speech (Part 3)

Interviews by Nityanand Jayaraman | Camera by Siddharth Muralidharan

Continued from yesterday’s interviews…

+ Koodankulam: Curb on Free Speech (2 Parts)

Since March 19, 2012, when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa announced that work on the controversial Koodankulam nuclear plant could be resumed, and even before that actually, the protesting villagers have been at the receiving end of a vicious state led campaign to paint their non-violent struggle as a violent one, and to crush their campaign into silence by using harsh sections of the Indian Penal Code. More than 7000 cases of “sedition” and “waging war against the Government of India” have been filed just in the Koodankulam police station. That is probably more than in any other police station in India. Certain sections of the media too have played the role of a willing partner in propagating the State’s propaganda. In pursuing this counter-campaign against its own people, the State Government has placed itself above the law of the land and pursued an openly anti-democratic agenda.

The interview below with M. Vetriselvan, Advocate (Chennai), seeks to explore the seemingly ironical situation of a “Democratic” State whose actions are anti-democratic.

PART III – M. Vetriselvan, Advocate, Chennai

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GulwQMmAOS0]

Tamil (English translation below), 1 min, 38s. Published on 15 April 2012.

 

NJ: What is your reading on the attempt to use repressive laws to suppress the democratic protest of the people of Koodankulam?

MV: For the past eight months, in Koodankulam, there has been a very large collective protest going on. This protest is against the nuclear power plant near Koodankulam. So far, this has continued to be a peaceful protest. People have not indulged in any kind of violence or repression against the State. Their method of protest has primarily been fasting. In their own areas, they have been peacefully fasting, going on marches, gathering people and spreading awareness – nothing more! In this situation, for these actions, various cases of sedition have been filed on them. Approximately, 200 cases have been filed on them,  all under various sections in Sedition. This has to be severely objected. One can object to any state policy in a democracy. Protesting against the nuclear policy is important to one’s right to expression. These people are exercising that right. Trying to suppress this demand through such disgusting violence is against democracy.
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This English transcript was done by volunteers in Chai Kadai. Feel free to share, copy, distribute and translate this transcript under this Creative Commons license. Please attribute the video interview to the authors mentioned above.  

Chai Kadai. (chaikadai.wordpress.com | chaikadai@gmail.com)