The state government of Tamil Nadu has finally succumbed to pressure by the Central government and decided to commission the operation of the two Russian built nuclear reactors in Koodankulam. It has carried out a major crackdown on the mass movement in and around Koodankulam in southern Tamil Nadu, outrageously slapping sedition charges on several people, and arresting close to 200 people in a pre-emptive show of intimidation and force.
Over the last six months in what has been the latest phase of a more than decade long struggle, tens of thousands of residents in and around Koodankulam have peacefully and non-violently demonstrated against the government's nuclear power plans. They have demanded that their concerns over issues of safety, environmental hazards and procedural violations of the AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) be fully and properly addressed. That their livelihood and life concerns should have been so casually ignored by a government that has even resorted to allegations of 'foreign manipulation' of what is an indigenous mass movement is extremely disturbing.
The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) entered into a negotiation with the Tamil Nadu State officials on March 27, with the assistance of some credible and respectable mediators. As per that mediation, the Tamil Nadu State Government assured to release all the imprisoned people through due process and withdraw all the cases that have been registered against us.
But all the false and serious cases such as 'sedition' and 'waging war on the Indian State' have not been withdrawn yet. Instead all these cases that randomly include +3,000 people and +2,000 people are used to intimidate the local people. So people here live in fear and are very afraid to venture out of their homes and villages. We hear reports that the Tamil Nadu Government is still trying to arrest all the important leaders and functionaries as soon as possible. Furthermore, personal vendetta is being taken by the State and Central agencies on some individuals and NGOs. On March 29, a team of Home Ministry officials from New Delhi descended on Udayakumar's family home at Nagercoil and inspected the SACCER Trust's account for 12 hours both at home and again at the Government Guest House in Nagercoil. The small Trust with hardly any money runs a very small school of 217 children. [It is interesting to note that the central government's and state government's teams inspected the Koodankulam nuclear power plant for hardly a few hours, and not 12 hours at a stretch.]
On March 30, 2012, Udayakumar received a letter from the Passport Officer in Madurai that he has to return his Passport as I have criminal cases against me. [He wonder if all the politicians, bureaucrats, scientists, military leaders and businessmen with criminal record have received such a request and is approaching the court to verify this.] The Tamil Nadu Government has sent the local police officers and constables from Koodankulam and Idinthakarai etc. to their respective villages on official duty to divide the local communities by instigating caste and religious hatred and group clashes. These police men spend all their time talking to their relatives and friends in their villages spreading rumors and causing fear and concerns among the people.
The Tamil Nadu Government is also using the Rs. 500 crore package to woe the corrupt and unscrupulous elements from the local villages, divide the communities and mobilize false support for the Koodankulam nuclear power project. We would also like to highlight the fact that the KKNPP has been restarted without any kind of consent and cooperation of the local people and it grossly violates Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. The fears and concerns of the people have not been addressed in any meaningful manner by both the Expert Teams nominated by the Central and State Governments. These governments are blatantly violating the rights and entitlements of the local people in an arrogant and authoritarian manner.
The PMANE has concluded its 9-day indefinite hunger strike and has resumed its relay hunger strike on daily basis from March 28, 2012. It is not true that our struggle has been withdrawn just because we have decided to resume fishing, open the local shops and send the Idinthakarai children back to school.
On April 4 a police constable from Avaraikulam village beat up one Mr. Pathira Pandi from Koodankulam claiming the latter had asked the local shopkeepers to close their shops in support of our protest. Mr. Pandi suffered severe injuries on his face and chest. Since it is futile to complain to the local police about a local policeman, his family preferred not to file any complaint. They were also afraid of more police harassment including false cases. PMANE hears that the local police at Koodankulam are filing FIRs on every shopkeeper who does not open his shop. This is quite a new record on the Indian State's upholding of our civil rights. (a FIR is a First Information Record, a very important document as it sets the process of criminal justice in motion).
It is expected by the Tamil Nadu authorities the Koodankulam nuclear reactor will start producing in May. This will automatically lead to an increase of the protest and (most likely) more repression by the state and the need for (international) solidarity. Stay informed!
Sources: Solidarity statement for anti-Koodankulam nuclear power plant project activists - signed by 30 eminent citizens, 32 March 2012 / PMANE press release 1 April 2012 / Idinthakarai Update, 5 April 2012
Contact: People's Movement Against Nuclear Power, Idinthakarai 627 104, Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu, India.
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