Kalpakkam Update: Peaceful Anti-Nuke Protests Turned Nasty by Tamil Nadu Cops

from Nityanand Jayaraman

Update: 28 March, 2013. 6.30 p.m.

Based on telephone conversation with Abdul Samad, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, Kalpakkam.

It is not the manner in which a protest is conducted, but the target of the protests that determine whether the police will turn nasty or remain cool. This morning, more than 1000 people gathered peacefully on the beach near the Kalpakkam nuclear power plant. The organisers instructed people to sit on the sands, and chant slogans. According to Abdul Samad, “Such a peaceful and organised gathering was unprecedented. It was a soft, well-behaved affair. We told the people that officials will come, and we can present our demadns to them, and that the police will come and tell us to disperse, after which those who wish to court arrest will have to walk in an orderly manner and board the bus.” Nearly 650 people, including 200 women, were picked up by the police and taken to wedding halls in three towns — Guduvanchery, Singaperumal Koil, and Chengalpet. About 27 leaders are being held in Singaperumal Koil, while 110 others are being held in the same venue downstairs.

It is common practice for the police to release peaceful protestors in the evening. But in this instance, since the protests is directed against the Nuclear Power Corporation of India and the Department of Atomic Energy, the police is being vicious. It first said the 27 leaders will be remanded and sent to judicial custody. Now the Superintendent of Police has brought the Magistrate to the wedding hall, and is threatening to jail all 650 people.

The protestors were demanding an end to dumping of nuclear wastes inside the Kalpakkam premises; a freeze on any further expansion of nuclear facilities in the Kalpakkam nuclear park; and diversion of all produced electricity to the surrounding affected villages, which currently face 10 hours of power cuts.

Kindly register your protest by sending faxes and emails to the Director General of Police, Tamil Nadu: +91 44-28447703(Fax)
Email: phq@tn.nic.in

Update from earlier this day: 1:29 p.m.

Kalpakkam Protests; Kalpakkam Arrests
G. Sundar Rajan, a friend and co-activist, is currently travelling to Singaperumal Koil in Kanchipuram District to meet Abdul Samad — one of the organisers of the resistance to the expansion of nuclear capacity in Kalpakkam nuclear park. Samad is one of nearly 2000 people who have been detained in about six different locations for organising a hunger strike and blockade of the Kalpakkam nuclear complex. Villagers living in the areas surrounding the Madras Atomic Power Station are protesting against the expansion of the nuclear complex, and have said that they will not tolerate the addition of any new facilities in Kalpakkam. A 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor has been under construction for nearly a decade, and villagers have said that this plant must be abandoned. They have also condemned the dumping of radioactive waste within the premises. Additionally, they have demanded that the entire share of electricity produced at the MAPS complex should be distributed to nearby villages. They pointed out that it is vulgar that the local villages suffer 10 hour shortages while Kalpakkam township, more than 10 kilometres away enjoys 24-hour electricity.

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Voices of the People vs. POSCO

Dhinkia, Orissa. Photograph by Sanjit Das. 2011.

Dhinkia, Orissa. Photograph by Sanjit Das. 2011.

Brief excerpts from the executive summary of the fact-finding report by a team of three from Alternative Law Forum and Delhi Forum, after a visit to the Dhinkia panchayat, consisting of the three villages of Dhinkia, Govindpur and Paatna, in Odisha, between 22nd December 2012 to 24th December 2012.   

[Read, download, and share the complete fact finding report from here – Captive Democracy: Abuse of criminal system to curb dissent against the POSCO steel plant in Odisha. Feb 2013]

The Government of Orissa and Pohang Steel Company (POSCO), Republic of Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on June 22, 2005 for setting up an Integrated Steel Plant in Orissa, in Jagatsinghpur district, affecting 8 villages of three Gram Panchayats of Kujang Tahsil, i.e. Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Naogaon. The attempts by the district administration to acquire land have been thwarted by strong local opposition starting early 2006, primarily by the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, that spearheads the movement against POSCO. In response to this resistance, the State Government has been using the tactic of the abuse of the criminal system to file numerous false criminal complaints against all persons resisting the project, including members of the PPSS leading to threats of arrest perpetually hanging over them.

The fact-finding report observed that the biased and arbitrary functioning of the police targets the villagers resisting the POSCO steel plant, instead of initiating any criminal action against the goons and other persons perpetrating violence against the villagers. The report outlined the following impacts of police actions –

  • The filing of false cases to curb this fundamental freedom of the people is nothing short of an attack on the democratic process and the values embedded in the Constitution.
  • The filing of cases and warrants against almost 2000 persons has resulted in the targeting of entire villages, who are under constant threat of arrest and have not left the villages in 6-7 years, and whenever they do leave, are constrained to do so surreptitiously. In many cases, entire families have been implicated, resulting in none of them leaving the village for years on end.
  • The inability to leave the village has resulted in a complete lack of access to medicines or any medical treatment to the villagers. A team of doctors who visited these villages found that at least 30 women needed urgent medical intervention, else their condition would deteriorate. Most arrests of persons take took place when villagers were compelled to leave the village to visit the doctor requiring medical assistance.
  • The inability to leave the village and maintain business ties has adversely impacted this trade which is the major source of livelihood for them
  • The Government has taken other forms of coercive action, and terminated government employees for having protested against the POSCO Project, including Shri Babaji Charan Samantara, who worked as postmaster in Dhinkia for 28 years and Shri Kailash Chandra Biswas was employed as a high school peon, at the Government School, Dhinkia, for over 20 years.
Over the last 8 years, the Government has made innumerable attempts to break the struggle against POSCO by employing various arm-twisting tactics. However, what is perhaps the greatest betrayal of the State against its own people, is the use of the criminal system to implicate villagers in a large number of false cases to intimidate them, instill fear in them and break them into submission.These are the days of emergency. A rapidly engulfing emergency where the State is using every underhand trick in the book to counter the legitimate and peaceful voices of dissent.
These are the days where the State does not even batter an eyelid while using water cannons on protestors against violence against women on the streets of Delhi, all under the glare of the media. Far away, where there are no cameras, no soundbites, the suppression is violent, illegal and with impunity. Our visits have revealed one character of the villagers and that is their indomitable spirit and quest for a peaceful and undisturbed life. This is what the struggle against POSCO is. And this is why we have to all join hands and mobilize all democratic means to end this continuing violence to give real meaning to our constitutional ideals.
In the light of the above, we make the following demands:
1. The Government should withdraw all the criminal cases foisted on villagers of POSCO affected villages and other members of PPSS
2. Cases must be immediately registered in regard to the violence perpetrated against the villagers of POSCO affect areas including but not restricted to the following:
a)  Against police officials in regard to the violence ob 15th May, 2010 at Balithut circle.
b)  Against hired goons in regard to the violence on 14th December, 2011during the peaceful protest against the construction of the coastal road connecting Paradip port to the proposed site of the POSCO steel plant.
3. The Government should immediately conduct an enquiry into the abuse of the criminal system to target villagers and take necessary action against all officials who are involved in the filing of false cases against villagers resisting the POSCO steel plant. The Government should respect and protect the constitutional rights of the villagers to protest and conduct itself in a democratic manner