Becoming an abuse statistic in patriarchal India


Journalist Nita Bhalla recounts the lingering scars – physical and mental – from an assault on her and draws a wider lesson about violence against women in patriarchal India.

I stand in front of the mirror, surveying my face and body – still in shock at how it could have happened to me.

Six days on, the swelling on the right side of my face which he banged into the wall has subsided, the bruise under my right eye where he punched me has turned deep purple and those on my arms and legs where he grabbed and kicked me are fading.

The marks around my neck from when he tried to choke me, I conclude, are healing the fastest. Yet I still decide to wrap a scarf around my neck before leaving for work.

Globally, six out of 10 women experience physical and/or sexual violence – mostly committed by a husband or an intimate partner, says UN Women.

And India, the country I am based in, is not much better.

Around 37% of Indian women have experienced some form of abuse by their husbands – pushing, slapping and hair pulling, punching, kicking, choking or burning – according to the Indian government‘s last National Family Health Survey.

Activists say the actual figures are likely to be more than double this, but despite greater awareness and more gender-sensitive laws, few women are willing to come out and talk openly about the violence they face by those who purport to love them.
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I still keep thinking: ‘This did not happen. This does not happen to women like me’”

The statistics are not surprising for me. But being a statistic is.
Raped and set alight

Reporting on women’s rights issues in South Asia over the last three years, I have covered the plethora of threats which haunt the millions of women who live in this deeply patriarchal region.

The violations are vast and varied – from the illegal abortions of female foetuses to the immolation of young brides by their in-laws for not fulfilling dowry demands, to brothers who murder their sisters for falling in love with “unsuitable” men.

I have visited villages in northern India where women hide behind veils and weep as they recount their stories of being sold and trafficked as brides, kept as slaves and beaten and raped by their husbands and “shared” among brothers.

I have spent hours in women’s shelters buried in New Delhi‘s slums, interviewing battered women with blackened and burnt arms, after their drunken husbands’ poured kerosene over them and set them alight.

Not entirely silent: Indian women protest violence against their sex

I have spoken to health workers, gender experts, women’s activists, and government officials on numerous issues – from the psychological reasons of “power and control” that lie behind gender abuse to the adverse impacts of the low status of women on India’s development efforts.

While physical and sexual violence against women is unfortunately something that afflicts every society, the high levels to which it is acceptable in India are sometimes unfathomable.

The National Family Health Survey found that 51% of Indian men and 54% of Indian women found it justifiable for a man to beat his wife.

And the silence that surrounds such abuse helps perpetuate that acceptability.
‘Objects’

Not the understandable silence of victims who are afraid or not empowered enough to speak out, but the incomprehensible silence of others – family, friends, neighbours and even passers-by – who choose to turn a blind eye.

Interviewing victims and hearing of how their families and friends knew, but did nothing, was something that I never really understood.

But now I have experienced that silence.

When he pulled my hair and kicked me as I lay on the pavement, there was a deafening silence from my neighbours who heard my screams but were reluctant to intervene.

I heard it from the group of young men walking past, who stopped a few feet away to watch as he beat me. And I heard it from the auto-rickshaw drivers who were parked at the stand across the road in the early hours of that morning.

Read full BBC story here

Koodankulam Alert 22 nd March 2012


Idinthakarai Update March 22, 2012

The situation here is still grim. There are some 10,000 people from coastal and interior villages. Most of them are women including pregnant women and nursing women.
I myself saw many nursing women feeding their babied sweetened water as there was no milk coming to the village. More people are coming by boats and on foot as the access roads are all blocked by police. There is no bus service to this place.
There is no sanitary complex and women bear the brunt of it. No public health official has ever come to help the people.

Some 15 of us have been on indefinite hunger strike and no medical doctor has ever come here to check our health. The Dinamalam newspaper has reported today that we have all been eating heartily and pretending to be fasting. If this anti-Tamil
newspaper can prove that there is a trace of food in my or Pushparayan’sstomach, we are ready to leave this protest. Otherwise, will they stop publishing this stupid paper? We are fighting for a cause not prostituting our soul like
the Dinamalam does.

On March 21,my mother had received a phone call from one advocate by the name T. Udayakumar and he claimed he was calling from the DGP office in Chennai. He asked my mother to ask me to leave the protest so that all the cases against me would be dropped and I would get whatever I ask for. My mother told him that I was not a man of that nature and ended the conversation. That evening the Superintendent of Police of Tirunelveli District called me on my mobile and asked me to
surrender alone so that people would not be affected. I told him that I was all ready for that but the people here at Idinthakarai also wanted to get arrested along with me and they would not let me go alone. I proposed to the SP to send enough number of buses and two police officers so that there would not be any stampede or tussle and we all would board the buses peacefully and go wherever they wanted us to go. He would not accept that proposition and said in anger: “This is the last time I talk to you.” There ended our conversation.

That night the police officer who was on security duty at our SACCER Matriculation School outside Nagercoil town had received a phone call from the Kanyakumari District SP office to go away from the school. Then a group of vandals, obviously with
the blessings of the police, had entered the school and destroyed it very badly. The compound wall was completely demolished and the gate damaged. They ransacked the school bus after tearing down the car shed’s iron shutters. They had entered the KG classrooms and destroyed all the small little chairs which my children were using to sit on. They had broken all the tables and chairs and I do not understand why they punished my little children like this. The vandals had entered our school library and destroyed all the 12 glass bookshelves and tables and threw away the books.

My 250 children are all avid readers and have been using our library extensively. This reminds me of the burning of the
Public Library at Jaffna a few years ago.

The governments and the police treat and speak of me as if I were Osama bin Laden and our people some mindless terrorists. We resent this inhuman and brutal treatment . Electricity, water, milk and other essentials have been cut for two days; people
cannot go out of and come into Idinthakarai as there is brutal police control. We are surrounded by police and I truly feel like I am at Mullivaickal.

We are a group of simple people who have been fighting nonviolently and democratically against an untested foreign reactor with all kinds of problems and hiccups. We have not done any harm to anybody or anybody’s property in our eight-month long
struggle. The whole country is proud of our people.

The stalemate continues. There are protests happening all over the country and the state of Tamil Nadu. Whoever is farsighted enough to worry about the future of India’s “ordinary citizens,” our natural resources, the well-being of our progeny, the possibility of losing our freedom to the New Nuclear East India Companies and most importantly, the democratic fabric of our country support us. We thank them and you for standing with us. We are ready for any brutal police action but will not give up our nonviolent noncooperation camp.

From: “S. P. Udayakumar”

 

Solidarity statement for ANTI KKNPP activists- signed by 30 eminent citizens


In Solidarity

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 — no less — 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.

We strongly condemn the repression launched against the people of Koodankulam and southern Tamil Nadu and demand that those arrested be immediately released. If a willingness to exercise one’s democratic right of protest in peaceful and non-violent ways, or to criticize the pursuit of nuclear energy, or even to oppose government plans in this regard is to be deemed seditious and warrants being arrested, then we the undersigned also declare ourselves to be as guilty as our fellow citizens in Tamil Nadu. We stand in solidarity with them. The government may please take note.

Admiral L. Ramdas (former Chief of the Indian Navy & Magsaysay Awardee)

Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (former Chief of the Indian Navy)

Justice Rajender Sachar (former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court)

S.P. Shukla (former Finance Secretary, Government of India)

Romila Thapar (Professor Emeritus, Dept. of History, JNU)

Aruna Roy (Member, National Advisory Council and Magsaysay Awardee)

Medha Patkar (Social Activist)

Arundhati Roy (Writer)

Sandeep Pandey (Social Activist and Magsaysay Awardee)

Ramchandra Guha (Historian and Professor, London School of Economics)

Rammanohar Reddy (Editor, Economic and Political Weekly)

Justice P.B. Sawant (former Judge of Supreme Court)

Justice B.G. Kolse-Patil (former Judge of the Bombay High Court)

Binayak Sen (Member, Planning Commission)

Ilina Sen (Professor, MG International University, Wardha)

Lalita Ramdas (former Chairperson, Greenpeace International)

Praful Bidwai (Independent Journalist and Professor, Council for Social Development)

Jean Dreze (Professor, G B Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad)

Kamal Mitra Chenoy (Professor, School of International Studies, JNU)

Anuradha Chenoy, (Professor, School of International Studies, JNU)

Surendra Gadekar (Social Activist)

Vasanth Kannabiran, (Founder & Head, Asmita Resouce Centre for Women, Hyderabad)

Ritu Menon (Founder Publisher, Women Unlimited)

Pamela Philipose (Director, Women’s Feature Service)

Rohan D’Souza (Assistant Professor, Centre for Studies in Science Policy, JNU)

Darryl D’Monte (former Resident Editor, The Times of India)

Soumya Datta (Scientist & Activist)

Lawrence Surendra (Founder Director of the Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives, South Korea)

Achin Vanaik (Former Dean of Social Science, University of Delhi)

Take a Break to watch this awesome Video


Please take a few minutes to watch this. It will make your day.

Mobile phone based report for Community Radio from Idinthakarai, Kudankulam


March 22, 2012, at Kafila.org

by ponni

Recording of a report by Sundari from Idinthakarai, the village in Kudankulam where many are on fast unto death and 15000 people have gathered in protest of the Nucelar Plant. Sundari is a long time local activist in the region who has been part of the struggle against the Nuclear plant.

Police have cracked down on the village and there is now a complete blockade. Journalists are not being allowed at all. This is an effort to get news out regularly. This recording has been made possible by the efforts of activists who work with enabling reporting for community radio through mobile phones. These broadcast and others that will follow, will be sent to community radio networks within Tamilnadu and around the country. Please spread the news. A translation is available below.

Sundari reports from Idinthakarai here.

I am calling from Idinthakarai. Can I speak now?

My name is Sundari. I am from Idinthakarai. We have been in a protest against the Nuclear Plant since the past 219 days. Till now, we have not caused any nuisance to the government or the public. We are holding a Peaceful Protest. The Chief Minister told us that she will stand by the people. When Manmohan Singh declared that he will open the nuclear plant, she said that the wishes o the local people is what matters to her. She closed the plant saying it is against the wishes of the people. Now suddenly, in a completely unexpected manner, has brought it the paramilitary and police. We are being tortured as much as the people in Sri Lanka must have been. There is no water. They have stopped the electricity connection to our village. Even milk packets have not been allowed in for the children. They are not allowing any journalists inside. They are not allowing anyone from the nearby villages to come in. No one is being allowed out of the village. All forms of transport have been stopped, including buses. Any people who come to help us are being arrested immediately. They sent the police and told us to ask Udayakumar to surrender. They are forcing us to make him surrender. They are threatening us with harm and say they can do what they want and there is nothing we can do about it. Here we are, women,

Read fulla rticle at Kafila

 

National media prevented from covering anti-nuclear protest in Tamil Nadu


Reporters Without Borders condemns police obstruction of national print and broadcast media today in Idinthakarai, a fishing village in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where the authorities are trying to remove entrenched anti-nuclear protesters from their camp beside the Koodankulam nuclear power station.

“It is always disturbing to see the authorities establish a perimeter and deny access to the media, even temporarily, for reasons other than their security,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Installing police barricades and ordering the police not to let the media through is unacceptable. We urge the Tamil Nadu government to modify the orders and allow journalists full access.

“The authorities must not try to use security as pretext for restricting media coverage of a peaceful anti-nuclear demonstration that contributes to the debate on a subject of public interest. A continuing media presence will also help to dispel any concern about the way the police could be treating the demonstrators.”

Police prevented journalists with NDTV, Times Now, Times of India and other national media from entering the fishing village at 7 a.m. today.

After initially saying they had orders from their high command to deny access to all journalists, the police manning the barricades allowed print and video reporters through. But, according to the Madras Press Club, they continued to deny access to TV mobile broadcasting trucks on the grounds that live reports would just exacerbate the situation.

However, when reached by telephone by reporters outside the village, the head of the Tamil Nadu police denied giving any such orders and, according to the latest information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, TV trucks were finally allowed into the village.

The Tamil Nadu government launched its operation against the Koodankulam protesters at the start of the week. Led by the People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), the protesters have been camped for more five months beside the power station, which is supposed to start operating soon.

Demonstrators have been denied access to the protest site, including by sea, since 19 March. They say that journalists have also been denied access since 19 March and that some journalists have been forced to leave the protest site.

Freedom of information has deteriorated significantly of late in India, which was ranked 131st out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

For Immediate Release- Division Bench at Patna Underscores Importance of Maternal Mortality


Division Bench at Patna Underscores Importance of Maternal Mortality and Orders State of Bihar to Account for Every NRHM Rupee Spent

20 March 2012

PATNA- The Division Bench of Patna’s recent order in Centre for Health and Resource Management (CHARM) v. The State of Bihar and Others (W.P. 7650/2011) asks the State Health Secretary to account for NRHM spending and unequivocally holds the State responsible for failures to protect, respect, and fulfill the rights of pregnant women under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

At about 300 maternal deaths per 1 lakh births, Bihar has the fourth-highest Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) in India and one of the highest MMRs in the world. Almost all of these deaths are completely preventable where the government provides adequate antenatal, delivery, and post-natal care. Despite significant financial support under the NRHM, sub centres and hospitals in Bihar do not have adequate supplies of iron, folic acid, blood, or basic equipment for checking blood pressure or hemoglobin levels. The state does not have adequate staff or infrastructure and reports an institutional birth rate of just 27%.

The Fifth Common Review Mission of the National Rural Health Mission found that state mismanagement of NRHM funds and inadequate implementation “prevented women from receiving these crucial benefits and services and contributed to the high incidence of preventable maternal deaths.” (p.203). In light of these facts, this Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by CHARM through its executive director, Dr. Shakeelue Rahman and the Humlog Trust through its Secretary Parveen Amanullah as a part of Human Rights Law Network’s strategy to use litigation to address India’s high maternal mortality and morbidity rates. Advocate Ms. Anubha Rastogi argued the case.

On 6th February a Division Bench of the Patna Court led by Justice (Smt) T Meena Kumari expanded the scope of the PIL to cover NRHM implementation in all districts of Bihar. The Health Secretary, Bihar was expected to file a district-by-district status report by 19th March 2012. In an unusual move, the State filed its report, but through a private advocate and not through government counsel. The case came up for hearing again on 20th March where the Division Bench of Justice T Meena Kumari and Justice Jyoti Saran took objection to the fact that a government official filed an affidavit through a private lawyer. The Division Bench has since ruled that this status report is unsatisfactory.

On 20 March, the Division Bench also ordered the Health Secretary to account for each and every Rupee released by the Central Government under NRHM and spent by the State Government for the implementation of NRHM. The total sum amounts to nearly Rs. 3500 crores. The State Government must file their response in an affidavit and should produce the bills for every Rupee spent. The report will highlight key gaps between Central Government disbursement and state level implementation. The State must submit its expense report by 9 April 2012.

The High Court of Madhya Pradesh recently held that the state has a duty to ensure that every woman survives pregnancy and childbirth. Today, the Patna Court underscored the state’s obligation to effectively implement the NRHM and to protect pregnant women.and Orders State of Bihar to Account for Every NRHM Rupee Spent

March 22
PATNA- The Division Bench of Patna’s recent order in Centre for Health and Resource Management (CHARM) v. The State of Bihar and Others (W.P. 7650/2011) asks the State Health Secretary to account for NRHM spending and unequivocally holds the State responsible for failures to protect, respect, and fulfill the rights of pregnant women under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

At about 300 maternal deaths per 1 lakh births, Bihar has the fourth-highest Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) in India and one of the highest MMRs in the world. Almost all of these deaths are completely preventable where the government provides adequate antenatal, delivery, and post-natal care. Despite significant financial support under the NRHM, sub centres and hospitals in Bihar do not have adequate supplies of iron, folic acid, blood, or basic equipment for checking blood pressure or hemoglobin levels. The state does not have adequate staff or infrastructure and reports an institutional birth rate of just 27%.

The Fifth Common Review Mission of the National Rural Health Mission found that state mismanagement of NRHM funds and inadequate implementation “prevented women from receiving these crucial benefits and services and contributed to the high incidence of preventable maternal deaths.” (p.203). In light of these facts, this Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by CHARM through its executive director, Dr. Shakeelue Rahman and the Humlog Trust through its Secretary Parveen Amanullah as a part of Human Rights Law Network’s strategy to use litigation to address India’s high maternal mortality and morbidity rates. Advocate Ms. Anubha Rastogi argued the case.

On 6th February a Division Bench of the Patna Court led by Justice (Smt) T Meena Kumari expanded the scope of the PIL to cover NRHM implementation in all districts of Bihar. The Health Secretary, Bihar was expected to file a district-by-district status report by 19th March 2012. In an unusual move, the State filed its report, but through a private advocate and not through government counsel. The case came up for hearing again on 20th March where the Division Bench of Justice T Meena Kumari and Justice Jyoti Saran took objection to the fact that a government official filed an affidavit through a private lawyer. The Division Bench has since ruled that this status report is unsatisfactory.

On 20 March, the Division Bench also ordered the Health Secretary to account for each and every Rupee released by the Central Government under NRHM and spent by the State Government for the implementation of NRHM. The total sum amounts to nearly Rs. 3500 crores. The State Government must file their response in an affidavit and should produce the bills for every Rupee spent. The report will highlight key gaps between Central Government disbursement and state level implementation. The State must submit its expense report by 9 April 2012.

The High Court of Madhya Pradesh recently held that the state has a duty to ensure that every woman survives pregnancy and childbirth. Today, the Patna Court underscored the state’s obligation to effectively implement the NRHM and to protect pregnant women.

Orissa diverts 12,000 hectares of forest land for Mining industries


BS Reporter / Kolkata/ Bhubaneswar Mar 21, 2012

Close to 12000 hectares of forest land have been diverted in the state in the past 10 years for mining activities and also to make way for industries in sectors like steel, aluminium, power and petroleum refining.

While mining activities have taken the lion’s share of the forest land (10,182 hectares), 1749.02 hectares have been diverted for industrial projects.

Forest land in the state has been diverted for as many as 90 miners during 2001-11, including Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL), National Aluminium Company Ltd (Nalco), Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC), Ferro Alloys Corporation (Facor), Tata Steel, Rungta Mines Ltd, Essel Mining & Industries Ltd KJS Ahluwalia and Jindal Steel & Power Ltd (JSPL) to name a few.

The industries for whom forest land has been diverted are JSPL (168.32 hectares) for its integrated steel & power complex at Angul, Posco India (1252.22 hectares) for its 12 million tonne per annum steel mill in Jagatsinghpur district, Aditya Aluminium Ltd (119.26 hectares) for its aluminium smelter and captive power plant at Sambalpur and Bhusan Steel & Power Ltd (61.48 hectares) for its integrated steel plant in Angul district to name a few.

Of the 11082.3 hectares of area to be taken up for compensatory afforestation, 7727.63 hectares have already been covered.

However, the pace of compensatory afforestation taken up by industrial players has been comparatively slower.

Only 157.89 hectares have been taken up for compensatory afforestation so far out of 1806.78 hectares mandated for these industrial projects in lieu of forest land diverted.

It may be noted that the Orissa government had presented a Rs 325 crore, five-year Action Plan to the Union ministry of environment & forests (MoEF) under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA).

The additional Action Plan aims at enhancing forest protection on the joint forest management mode. The joint forest management mode envisages active involvement and participation of people for protection and enrichment of forest through Vana Sanrakshyana Samities (VSS).

Anil Agarwal mines daughter Priya’s skills for Vedanta Resources


22 Mar, 2012,  Ahona Ghosh,ET Bureau

MUMBAI: From destructive mining major to compassionate corporate – when Anil Agarwal, executive chairman of the $11.4-billion Vedanta Resources, had to pick an image doctor to engineer such a change in popular perception, he chose his 22-year-old daughter Priya.

The young Agarwal’s first real assignment – a national advertising campaign ‘Creating Happiness’ in which she has spent Rs 20 crore so far – is already mired in controversy. Vedanta has often been accused of questionable practices, in precisely the kind of tribal areas where this campaign claims it is “creating happiness.” But she is unperturbed. “Everyone is involved in controversy but the good work has to continue. We don’t bother with controversies,” says Priya.

The national campaign airing across 37 channels seems timed with the Cairn acquisition, the Supreme Court appeal next month in the Niyamgiri mining case and lobbying with the government, according to Ashish Bhasin, chairman-India and CEO-South-East Asia, Aegis Media, a media communications firm. “It seems they are attempting to build long-term goodwill and a positive image with the government or certain groups,” says Bhasin.

In August 2010, the environment ministry rejected clearances granted to a joint venture led by the Vedanta Group for mining bauxite from Niyamgiri hills.

The final hearing on the group’s appeal against this is coming up on April 9. Vedanta’s environmental and human rights record has been criticised by investors such as Church of England, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the Marlborough Ethical Fund and Millfield House Foundation, human rights and activist groups like Amnesty International, Survival International, and by the British and Norwegian governments.

Naive or not, Priya has set out on what Vedanta’s many critics would say is a mission impossible – remake Vedanta’s brand.

Tough Task at Hand

The exercise is aimed at branding the group as the mining concern, but as a missionary organisation with a social conscience. “It’s always been on our minds and my father always wanted to do this,” she says. Priya also joined the board of Cairn India as a director three months ago.

Her father doesn’t read too much into her two new assignments. “Right now she is learning and executing. I am sure she would need some more time to choose her field,” he told ET in an email response. “I am just testing the waters and spending two months each in the marketing, human resources and public relations departments of the company, though my interest lies in PR,” adds Priya. But have no doubts, she is the one spearheading the group’s image makeover

Read more here

Koodankulam: This Orgy of Intimidation and Vandalism Must End !


Here is the story in Meera Udaykumar’s own words.Her school was vandalised yesterday.

Lalita Ramdas

When Meera Udaykumar finally got home after a long and stressful day – and at my urging, she finally sent me the photographs you will see in this message.

Her day began early with a phone call telling her that her school had been attacked and vandalised by unknown miscreants. Perhaps I was among the first few to get the news directly from her before setting out to inspect the extent of the damage. I immediately called Nity in Chennai and asked if he could alert media. And a couple of hours later Meera called back, first of all to tell me the state of the school and the kind of damage inflicted. She also told me that NDTV had interviewed her for a few minutes and especially asked me to watch out for her message in which she has spoken directly to the people of Tamil Nadu, of India and the world – saying that these were non-violent and peaceful protestors – their only demand was for renewable energy – and no nuclear power plant. How does that make them anti-national or seditious? Why should children be made to suffer for no fault of their own?

But till now – 11pm on the night of the 21st march – NDTV has not carried her story.

We need to ask the question why? A phone call made to a senior NDTV executive in the afternoon by us from Alibag, brought forth a vague response about editorial decisions which were not in the control of anyone else.

Who is controlling these decisions and calling the shots? Why is the centre insecure about putting a woman like her onto the screen. Are they worried that her presence might evoke more sympathy rather than hardening public sentiment against those who are obstructing the Energy security of India?

Even to file a police report – FIR – she [Meera] had to wait for a couple of hours at the police station – and even so, the SI refused to meet her – and finally told her to leave the papers at the police station without even a receipt.

Looks like it is harassment at every step.

The images enclosed herewith show the deliberate damage inflicted on the buildings, the equipment, the school van, the library, the water pipes, the precious books, tables, chairs and blackboards – not to mention plants and the compound wall.

We would not even deal with our enemies the way we seem to be dealing with people who have sacrificed careers and comfort to come home and work for the most needy. Uday Kumar, Pushparayan, the thousands of strong and courageous women , men and children who are collectively exhibiting a leadership and peaceful non-co-operation out of which this country and our people achieved our freedom and won the admiration of the world. It is tragic indeed that the once proud nation has descended to this – exemplified by the attitude of the `official spokesperson’ of the Congress party on NDTV earlier this evening.

Hope some sense will prevail – that our leaders and the Atomic Energy Establishment they think they control will miraculously have the courage to show both courage and humility to say, yes, we need to re-examine and go back to the drawing boards to make sure the checks and balances the people are asking for can be implemented.

Meanwhile, just spoken to friends in Koodankulam – the time is 1130pm

Accounts of people present vary from 10000 to 15000.

They want to be together , and they came by road, and rickshaw, by boats and cross country. All the boats or `fibres’ from several villages are now anchored off Koodankulam – this is a non violent fleet and does not carry guns.

But the papers and others are speaking of reinforcements of the paramilitary, of tear gas and armoured vehicles moving in. Of repeated flag marches intended to intimidate.

Supplies of water and milk have been blockaded by the police.

Police are apparently harassing the residents of Koodankulam by banging on doors in the middle of the night – and stopping people unnecessarily for questioning.

The leadership and the people are sworn to non-violence – but who can tell what spark can set off violence. There is tension everywhere they tell us….

And the PIL filed in the High Court in Chennai today rightly demands a lifting of section 144, and restoration of normalcy – especially to ensure the right to food and security of 856 primary school children , of another 715 kids below the age of five; then another 946 kids at the Idinthakarai primary school, and 462 at Kuthenkuly – not to mention a number of old people.

So, we would like to ask the honourable Chief Minister if this is what she was told to do by using the Iron Fist? And how will she ever be able to fulfil her promise to the people of Tamil Nadu that she has their interests close to her heart?

I told our friends in Idinthakarai – sleep well – and I said the same to Meera – but the words sounded hollow to my own ears ….we are uneasy tonight – and will be awaiting the midnight call and the midnight swoop down – except this is not a film, but a reality in this our largest democracy………

Lalita Ramdas in village Bhaimala

Read all news of protest at Dianuke

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