Fishermen protest SC nod for Kudankulam


TIRUNELVELI, May 15, 2013

 

Special Correspondent, The Hindu

Fishermen from coastal hamlets of Tirunelveli district stayed away from the sea on Tuesday as a protest against Supreme Court's judgment in favour of the commissioning of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project first reactor— Photo: A. SHAIKMOHIDEEN

Fishermen from coastal hamlets of Tirunelveli district stayed away from the sea on Tuesday as a protest against Supreme Court‘s judgment in favour of the commissioning of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project first reactor— Photo: A. SHAIKMOHIDEEN

Fishermen in the coastal hamlets of Tirunelveli district abstained from fishing operations in protest against the Supreme Court verdict that allowed the commissioning of the first reactor of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP).

The anti-KKNPP activists, who are staging a series of protests against the upcoming nuclear power project for the past several months, had announced that they would not accept the Supreme Court verdict that allowed the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, the proponent of the project, to commission the first of the two 1,000 MW reactors being built with Russian assistance at Kudankulam.

At a meeting at Idinthakarai last Thursday to discuss the apex court’s judgment, they appealed to the fishermen of Tirunelveli, Tuticorin and Kanyakumari districts to abstain from all fishing operations on Tuesday.

Responding to the appeal, country boat fishermen struck work on Tuesday and staged demonstrations in their hamlets against the KKNPP, alleging that the nuclear power project would wipe out their livelihood.

 

Another Death in the “World’s Best” Nuclear Plant (KKNPP)


English: Construction site of the Koodankulam ...

English: Construction site of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant Deutsch: Baustelle des Kernkraftwerks Kudankulam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mr. Alok Suman Roy, a 26-year-old young man from Odisha, has died of electric shock at the KKNPP Unit-1 today (March 9, 2013) morning. He died in the tunnel route of electrical lines at Unit-1. Acknowledging the death, the KKNPP administration claims that he died in Unit-2. But workers there confirm that he died in Unit-1. If the KKNPP officials admit the truth that the death occurred in Unit-1, they may have to answer a lot of uncomfortable questions about the safety and the viability of the failed project.
It is pertinent to note that an older man from Koodankulam died in January 2013 inside the plant and another young man, Mr. Kalyanasundaram from Tirunelveli, died on December 6, 2012 of electric shock. Why do so many people die of electric shock there? What is wrong with the Russian plants? Is the KKNPP ready for an open and independent probe into all these deaths?
The PMANE expresses its sincere condolences to the unknown and unseen family of the departed soul in distant Odisha.
The Struggle Committee
People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)

 

 

 

Rumours on Kudan­kulam radiation leak trigger scare


Deccan Chronicle | AR. Meyyammai | 17th Feb 2013

MaduraiPanic gripped the fishing hamlets and other villages in the coastal districts of Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and other seaside hamlets in Kerala since the midnight hours of Saturday following a bout of wild rumours on radiation leak from Kudan­kulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP).

Church bells tolled at intermittent hours since midnight and public address systems blared warnings asking the people to assemble at open spaces in their villages since mid night. Fear stricken fishermen and villagers with their families fled their houses half-awake and panicked.

Many, fraught with terror that they would be wiped out at one go if the radiation reached their villages, assembled at the common fast site at Idinthakarai village when the church bells tolled as warnings.

They made frantic calls in their mobiles to their friends and relatives who also rushed to the places to evacuate them. Many had left their villages in available trucks and vehicles to distant towns such as Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Kanya­kumari, Nagercoil and Kollam and Tiruvana­nt­hapuram in Kerala.

KNPP site director R.S.Sundar told Deccan Chronicle, “There is no radiation leak whatsoever. About 4000 people were inside the plant today. It is unfortunate that such rumours are being floated and people believe them.”

With the authorities pointing fingers at the anti-nuke activists for the rumours, People’s Mov­ement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) said conflicting statements from central ministers and plant officials had triggered the alarm among the fishermen. Sundar, however, reacting to the charges of technical faults in the plant, said, “We cannot say technically everything is alright.

Integrated checks on several components of the plant are being conducted and we are finetuning the testing process. It will take some more days for the tests to be completed after which the work would be audited by regulators.”

 

UPDATE KOODANKULAM -11-member team heading for Idinthakarai detained


SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, The Hindu Oct 13, 2012

Police suspect links with banned groups

Members of an 11-member ‘fact-finding committee’ heading towards Idinthakarai, the hub of the protests against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project, were arrested on Friday.

Four of the members were from Tamil Nadu; three, including a woman, were from Cuddapah district in Andhra Pradesh; two from Jharkhand; and one each from Odisha and Delhi.

They are affiliated to some movements and the police suspect they have close contacts with banned groups. Efforts are on to trace their background.

Based on a tip-off that the team members were on their way to Idinthakarai in a bus, the vehicle was intercepted at the Nanguneri toll gate in the morning. The team members were taken to a marriage hall for interrogation, which revealed that they were affiliated to various organisations, including the Anti-Imperialist Movement, Centre for Protection of Civil Liberties, Students Uprising Movement, Anti-Evacuation Movement, Revolutionary Democratic Front and Women’s Uprising Movement.

Since activities of all these organisations are under scanner and the movement of persons linked to these outfits are being monitored by security agencies, they were detained. Moreover, they cannot be allowed to enter a place where prohibitory orders are in place,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police, Valliyoor Sub-Division, N.K. Stanley Jones. Superintendent of Police, Tirunelveli, Vijayendra S. Bidari and Additional Superintendent of Police, K. Mahendran interrogated them in the evening.

The police have registered cases against them under various sections of the IPC. “We’ve also seized some literature from them,” Mr. Jones said.

 

The details of those arrested on 12 October, 2012, as per the list I have at present include:

1. Palani Sami – Anti Imperialist Movement (Karur)
2. Agaraadhi – Podhu Nala Pengal Ezhuchi Iyyakam (Madurai)
3. Kesavan-CPCL Madurai
4. Jagan – Podhu Nala Manavar Ezhuchi Iyyakkam
5. Varalakshmi– Andhra Pradesh student
6. Pradeepa Human rights activists Jharkhand
7. Damodar – PUCL Delhi
8. Priyadarshini – JNU (DSU)

9Aravind Abiyaas from Jharkhand

10 Hameed, a student from Andhra Pradesh
Names of 1  others not known

Crime FIR no 216/2 Sections 143/188/194b/ 353/ 362/ 506 of IPC r/w 7(1) A of CLA Act


——————————-

In a separate but unrelated incident last Saturday, another group of people who had gathered at a private school to discuss plans of setting up a trade union were picked up at the behest of the notorious Q branch, arrested and remanded in Vellore Jail. The police has managed to defeat the bail application on the basis of arguments that the arrested people are from the Maoist party. This incident was not related to Koodankulam, but speaks of a noticeable and disturbing trend in Tamil Nadu.

Total number of people arrested

13 people

Date of arrest: Saturday 6th October

Names with age of the persons under arrest

Bhaskar ~40

Duraisingavel ~

Palani

Kumaragurubaran 61

(Maniko) G Paneerselvam ~35– Professor ulga tamil arachi niruvanam

Poovi Arasan (salem -28) Sft ware engg

Senthil Kumar

Gurunathan

Murali Mohan (thiruvannamalai)

Suresh Kumar

Rafique

Mugilan (thiruvannamalai)

Ragini –w/o duraisingavel

 

Name of the organization they are part off

Makkal Jananayaga Kudiarasu Katchi (peoples Democratic republic party)

Sections under which they have been arrested

17 (1) of Criminal Law Amendment Act : (unlawful assembly)

Jail location: Vellore prison

Place of arrest: Kundrathur Paavendar Tamilvayi Palli (tamil medium school)

Name of the police station: Kundrathur police station

history of the event

The members of the party had assembled to discuss about setting up and registering trade union on a industry basis. They assembled about 10am. Discussion were happening. Permission had been sought from the school authorities (Palani’s daughters are studying in the school and he had sought permission). evening around 5:30 pm Q branch police along with local police numbering 20 entere dthe premises and started to enquire about them. They wanted to know the reason for the meeting and to know about the organization and collected the personal details of the people present. By this time Bhaskar had contacted a few advoctes but he was not sure they would be arrested. They continued with to the enquiry even upto 9:30pm and then the police arrested them.

The arrest was done by the kundrathur police on the complaint of Q branch SI Mohan. The complainant maintains that the persons were gathered in the school and conducting a meeting in a closed room in which the lights had been put off. ————

police account

The group had no permission. The members ar e part of the banned maoist party. SOme of th emembers have been convicted or have charges under POTA.

they had unlawfully assembled (in the sense they did not get any permission from the police) and were secretly discussing. (this part is unclear as adv Natarajan was not too clear)

 

Bail moved

Bail was moved on Monday (8th) at the Magistrate Court in Sriperumbudur. the case came up for hearing on Wednesday (10th )where the judge adjourned the case to Friday (12th) as the PP sought time to file the counter by the police and state.

Status of bail application

On Friday (12th) the bail was dismissed as the judge accepted the PP’s argument that they were known maoists with previous charges and the police need time to investigate.

 

DETAILS GATHERED BY OTHER FRIENDS FROM ADV. NATARAJ WHOSE HANDLING THE BAIL PROCESS

 

Koodankulam Update: 9 October, 2012


 

Update: 9 October, 2012
As told to  nityarand jayaraman by a source in Tirunelveli

Koodankulam protestors, and some others who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time on September 10 and subsequent dates, had been picked up by the Police, arrested and remanded to judicial custody in Tirunelveli, Vellore, and Tiruchi jails. Yesterday, they were produced before the Magistrate in Valliyoor. This is the second instance that an extension on their remand has been granted.

The arrested people that were brought to the magistrate’s court from Vellore and Tiruchi were not given food, water or allowed to answer nature’s calls throughout the trip. In the earlier instance, when they were produced before the magistrate, they had been brought in hand-cuffed. The Magistrate had taken a very serious view of this, and reminded the police of the supreme court orders on the matter. Unlike the last visit, the arrested people were allowed to meet their relatives yesterday thanks to the presence of about 6 local lawyers who complained to the Magistrate. The magistrate in turn chastised the police and invited the relatives to meet the arrested people inside the court, and hand over food and clothing.

Two disturbing events arose.
1. Thirumani a.k.a Joseph, aged 29 (as per FIR), s/o Lincoln Nadar, Village Koodankulam is a mentally challenged person. On September 10, 2012, a new Sub-Inspector (name awaited) from the Koodankulam Police Station arrested Thirumani. His arrest was not noticed by anybody. He was produced before the Nanguneri Magistrate, who is the same person that helped the police with the remand of Mugilan. In this case too, the Magistrate (name awaited) remanded the arrested person to judicial custody. When solidarity activists in Tirunelveli found out about it, they applied for bail for the young man and requested that the youngster be sent in for immediate treatment. The matter had come up for hearing on 7 October (Saturday), when the Magistrate directed that Mr. Thirumani should be moved to the Tirunelveli Government Hospital, and sought a medical opinion. Yesterday, the medical opinion confirming Mr. Thirumani’s mental state was presented to the Magistrate. The magistrate questioned the Public Prosecutor in open court as to how the Nanguneri Magistrate had been convinced to remand a visibly mentally challenged person. The magistrate told the lawyers to move a bail application immediately. To move a bail application, the sureties produced (such as property papers etc) need to be certified by the Village Administrative Officer. All 5 VAOs and Tahsildars in Perumanal, Idinthakarai and Koodankulam have been instructed to not issue any certification and have refused to do so since the time that sureties were being readied for the release of Sathish Kumar and Mugilan a few months ago. In this case too, Koodankulam VAO Mr. Suresh flatly refused to issue any certification and directed the applicants to approach the District Collectolr. The Lawyers pointed this out to the Magistrate. Considering the mental state of the arrested person, the Magistrate has issued bail on the basis of patta tax payment receipts of 2010. The bail has now been granted, but only because the Magistrate was willing to accept our case only because Thirumani is mentally challenged. For the other persons, bail applications are likely to be a problem because the VAO is unlikely to certify surety papers.

2. Mr. Udayaselvan, s/o Sudalaimani, aged 25, Koodankulam village, is in no way connected to the ongoing protests. The following narrative is a paraphrased version of his oral testimony to the Valliyoor Magistrate on 9 October, 2012. On September 10, he was returning from having picked up clothes from a tailor shop in Koodankulam town where he had given clothes for stitching for a wedding of his close relative. On his way back, he was stopped by policemen. He told them he had to go home to drop off the clothes. The same policemen who had allowed him were joined by several more by the time he happened back. Despite his protests that he had nothing to do with the protest on the beach, he was picked up by three policemen — Police Constable Pal Pandi, Police Constable Lakshmanan and Sub Inspector Anand Raj. All three policemen were reportedly part of the escort that accompanied DSP Bidari and the ADGP. Udayaselvan was dragged into the thorny bushes, and was beaten up badly. One would slap him on his face, while the other would punch him on his head, and the third would hit him on his legs. This went on until he thankfully lost consciousness. Another person, also arrested on the same day from the same location, confirms that he saw Udayaselvan being dragged by his feet and hands and loaded on to the police vehicle. According to Udayaselvan, the Sub Inspector Anand Raj was particularly vicious.  As Udayaselvan was narrating this, his mother who was present in the court fainted.

Mr. Udayaselvan said that he did not narrate these beatings on the first occasion for fear of upsetting his mother and sister. But since then (about 15 days back), he has lost all appetite and the effects of the beatings are seriously affecting his health. According to his mother, he has never appeared so weak. His request for medical attention has been granted, and the Magistrate reportedly ordered him to be relocated to the hospital immediately.

According to the person who narrated all this to me, the presence of a number of lawyers appearing on behalf of the arrested people made a big difference to counter the intimidation of the police and bring in a semblance of fairness to the proceedings.
However, even since the time when bail sureties were being readied for the release of Sathish Kumar and Mugilan two months ago, the Village Administrative
Yesterda

 

Kudankulam protests: Fishermen lay siege to Tuticorin port


Protests against the Kudankulam nuclear plant continue unabated with thousands of fishermen having laid siege to the port at Tuticorin today, demanding the closure of the controversial plant.

by Sam Daniel, Edited by Mala Das | Updated: September 22, 2012 11:30

Protests against the Kudankulam nuclear plant continue unabated with thousands of fishermen having laid siege to the port at Tuticorin today, demanding the closure of the controversial plant.

Nearly thousand fishing boats have blocked entry to the Tuticorin harbour, which is situated around 60 miles away from the nuclear power plant. The loading of nuclear fuel, which is on at one of the reactors at the Kudankulam plant, has not in the least dented the determination of the protesters, all fishermen hailing from the districts of Tuticorin, Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli – where the plant is located.

“Fishermen in Kudankulam and surrounding districts are protesting over the last 400 days, but the government is not listening and we will have to resort to these kind of protests,” said a fisherman. These fishermen are worried that the plant, once commissioned, will destroy their livelihood. Subash Fernando, Spokesperson of the Agitation Committee, says, “Once the plant is commissioned, the radiation from it would disqualify our catch for export to the European market, and even if nuclear fuel is loaded, it’s not too late to stop it”.Two expert committees appointed by the government have found the plant to be safe, dubbing public fears unfounded.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who initially supported the cause of the movement, later did a U-turn, citing that the project could bring relief to the state which is reeling under a severe power shortage. Around a lakh and half people, who live in the vicinity, are opposed to the plant. “If India believes in democracy, the government should listen to the people.

If Japan could have a Fukushima disaster, imagine what could happen in India which was also hit by a tsunami not long ago,” said a villager. Presently, the Supreme Court is hearing a petition that challenges the go-ahead given to the nuclear plant. Petitioners cite that the plant is yet to incorporate 11 of the 17 safety recommendations made by a government task force after the Fukushima disaster.

However, the atomic energy department claims these are only enhanced safety features which would be implemented in phases. At Idinthakarai – ground zero for the protests – just three kilometres away from the plant, around four to five thousand villagers are continuing their protest demanding the closure of the plant. Two weeks ago, around 10 thousand people marched towards the plant in a bid to lay siege; police opened tear gas and resorted to lathicharge to disperse the crowd.

A non-bailable warrant has been issued against SP Udhayakumar, the face of the movement, as he failed to honour a court summon. He says “the government is trying to project them as the most wanted terrorists”. The Kudankulam power plant is the first nuclear project to near completion after the Fukushima disaster. Some countries like Germany have decided to turn away from nuclear energy and the international community is keenly watching how India handles the rising opposition to the project..

 

Watch the videos

http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/news/kudankulam-protests-fishermen-lay-siege-to-tuticorin-port/247805?v_also_see

 

 

 

India- Children slapped with sedition charges #WTFnews


4 children arrested near Idinthakarai face sedition charges

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, The Hindu

A Coast Guard aircraft flies over anti-nuclear protestors, who began a jal satyagraha against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) by standing the whole day in the sea on Thursday. The year-long protest turned violent on Monday. PTI Photo
A Coast Guard aircraft flies over anti-nuclear protestors, who began a jal satyagraha against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) by standing the whole day in the sea on Thursday. The year-long protest turned violent on Monday. PTI Photo

Four boys, aged between 15 and 16 years, who were arrested by the police during and after Monday’s clash between the anti-Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project protesters and the police near Idinthakarai, are now facing serious charges including sedition.

All the four – one each from Vairaavikinaru, Idinthakarai and two from Kudankulam – have been lodged in the Juvenile Home on the South Bypass Road near the western entrance of Vaeinthaankulam New Bus Stand in Tirunelveli.

If the sedition charges framed against them are proved, they can be punished with imprisonment for life.

The Kudankulam police have registered a case against the boy from Vairaavikinaru under Sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with deadly weapon), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 431 (damaging road, bridge, river, channel etc.), 121(A) (conspiring to overawe, by means of criminal force or the show of criminal force, the Central Government or any State Government), 395 (dacoity), 307 (attempt to murder) r/w 149 IPC (unlawful assembly) and Sec 3 of TNPPDL Act (causing damage to public property).

The boy from Idinthakarai, who was reportedly arrested during the clash, is facing charges under Sections 147, 148, 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) r/w 144 Cr. P. C and 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 352 (assault or criminal force otherwise than on grave provocation), 355 (assault or criminal force with intent to dishonour person, otherwise than on grave provocation), 294 (b) (sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place), 307, 427 (mischief to cause minor damage) IPC r/w 149 IPC and Section 13 of Unlawful Assembly Act and Section 3 of TNPPDL Act.

Of the four, the children from Kundankulam are facing grave charges as they have been booked under Sections 147,148, 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 431, 188 IPC r/w 144 Cr. P. C., ,291 (continuance of nuisance after injunction to discontinue), 294(b), 121 (waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India), 124(A) (sedition) 307 IPC r/w 149 IPC and 3 of TNPPDL ACT and Section 4 of Endangered Species Act.

Latest update- Pictures- KOODANKULAM- Protestors seek support #Sunday


2:33 pm

Nity just spoke to a protester who’s at the siege site (east end wall of the nuke plant) on Idinthakarai seashore. There are atleast 8000 people at the siege site now facing severe weather. Drinking water is not available at the site but arrangements are being made to arrange for the same.

The protesters seek the support of all groups and organisations to organise solidarity events and meetings all over India.

12:48 pm

Tirunelveli SP Vijeyandra Bidari has reached the spot. The police are right next to the protesters now. Protesters say that the SP is making some announcement on the megaphone but they are not able to hear anything

12:30 pm

Thousand people from Periya thaalai village who were on their way to Idinthakarai were stopped by the police. The people are now on their way to attend a hunger protest held in Pani maya madha church in Tuticorin. Fishermen from Tuticorin are already on a hunger protest at the church. The police is not allowing protestors to head towards Idinthakarai to participate in the protest.

Protesters plan to lay siege to #Kudankulam Nuclear project site today


 

 

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, Hindu

 

Kudankulam Nuclear Plant

Kudankulam Nuclear Plant (Photo credit: Eunheui)

 

An uneasy calm prevails in Kudankulam and Idinthakarai in the wake of the protesters’ threat to march towards the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project site on Sunday for laying siege to it, and the deployment of around 4,000 police personnel to face any eventuality.

 

The anti-Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project agitation, which started a year ago at Idinthakarai, has almost reached the climax with the protesters making a last-ditch effort to prevent enriched uranium fuel being loaded on to the first reactor.

If the fuel loading passes off uneventfully, then the year-long agitation will become meaningless, feel the protesters, who also believe that their desperate move will exert pressure on the Union Government to put off plans for commissioning the KKNPP.

The agitation, hitherto confined to coastal hamlets, may overflow on the roads leading to the KKNPP as part of the protest, which may trigger a possible conflict with the police.

CLARION CALL

Announcements were made by priests in a few churches in the coastal villages of the district on Saturday morning appealing to the devotees to join the ‘satyagraha’ on Sunday.

Anticipating a huge mobilisation by protesters from various coastal villages from Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts, around 4,000 police personnel have been deployed on the roads near Kudankulam and Idinthakarai. Sandbags have been piled up by the police on the roadside.

WARNING RIBBONS

Warning ribbons have been tied around the ground-level wells – both used and unused – around Vairaavikinaru to caution passersby. “The protesters may run for cover in case of a possible police action tomorrow. To prevent them from falling into the wells, we’ve tied the warning ribbons,” said a police officer. Perfect functioning of all streetlights in this region has been ensured by the local panchayats following a direction from the Assistant Director (Panchayat).

During vehicle checks by officials attached to the Regional Transport Offices at Tenkasi, Tirunelveli and the Motor Vehicle Inspectors of Valliyoor, 20 vehicles, including jeeps, autorickshaws and an earthmover, which did not have valid documents, were seized. The impounded vehicles have been taken to the Radhapuram police station.

 

 

 

1 Democratic protest and 8,000 Sedition cases. Is India a free country?


 

 

The protest over the nuclear plant in Koodankulam has claimed the livelihood of thousands, with bogus charges filed and restrictions on their occupation, reportsSoumik Mukherjee, Tehelka

Protest trail (left) Children at the Tirunelveli Collectorate; Villagers burn a coffin representing democracy, on 15 August

Photos: Amirtharaj Stephen

IDINTHAKARAI, A small coastal village in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district, overlooks a horizon dotted with windmills. The village is populated by small-time fishermen eking out a modest living. But, according to the register at the Kudankulam police station, this village is the country’s most notorious place. People here are waging a war against the nation. They are all seditious. This is the first time, in the history of this country, that 8,000 cases of sedition and waging a war against the nation have been registered, at a single police station.

However, a visit to Idinthakarai dispels this myth of sedition. The village, at the brink of a soon-to-be functional 2,000 MW nuclear plant, is definitely waging a war. Not against the State, though, but for its right to a nuclear disaster-free future.

A nuclear plant, located only a few kilometres away from the villages, threatens the very existence of the people in Koodankulam. Fishing, their principal means of livelihood, is facing extinction.

“If anything, this has only trivialised the gravity of the charges of sedition,” says SP Udayakumar, the leader of People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy (PMANE). “We led a democratic and nonviolent protest here for over a year and they charged 8,000 people with sedition. If we are seditious, then the Atomic Energy Research Board (AERB), which has been named by the CAG for irregularities in the nuclear policy, is committing a bigger crime by playing with millions of lives,” he says. Apart from sedition cases, criminal cases have been lodged against as many as 66,000 people in the past year.

Most of the sedition cases were lodged on three occasions. During a sit-in at the plant premises in October 2011, the Koodankulam police, after using violent means to ward off the protesters, lodged as many as 3,000 cases. In November 2011, more cases were filed when fishermen from the neighbouring villages staged a peaceful demonstration by the sea. The last mass registration of sedition cases occurred recently, on Independence Day this year. As a sign of protest, villagers in the surrounding areas of the plant refused to hoist the national flag. They put up black flags instead. The district administration deemed the protest seditious, nevertheless. “A few thousand more cases of waging war against the nation were lodged that day,” informs Pushparayan Victoria, a colleague of Udaykumar’s.

Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan rubbishes the cases, even calling them ‘absurd’. “The SC, in a verdict in 1962, said that only an act of overthrowing the State qualifies as sedition. This is just an instance of a peaceful movement being suppressed by these false cases,” he says.

Interestingly, the Tirunelveli Police backtracked on all their previous atrocities. Superintendent of Police Vijayendra Bidari says that police never dealt with the protesters in an ‘undemocratic manner.’ “The numbers that are doing the rounds are false,” says Bidari. “We have named only 20 people or so in the FIRs,” he says. Since most of the names were registered under ‘others’, the entire village is under the threat of a judicial trial now. “We are working on the chargesheets and we have enough evidence against some of these people, which will be produced in the court,” Bidari asserts.

People who have found jobs abroad claim they have been denied their passports because of the sedition charges

Civil society from all over the country have protested against the State’s treatment of a peaceful movement. Khurram Pervez, a civil society activist from Kashmir, says, “It’s nothing new. The state of India monopolises violence. Any voice of dissent, in Kashmir, Northeast or Koodankulam, is sedition in its eyes. We were shocked to see that people from a small village are being charged with sedition because of protesting against a nuclear plant.”

As a result of the cases, people in Kudankulam are being denied their basic rights. “No new passports are being issued; in fact, some of the passports that arrived have been called back,” informs Victoria. Even though the Tirunelveli Police claims they cleared all the passport applications, TEHELKA found that no passports have been issued to people in the village, who applied in the past one year. “I have secured a job in Saudi Arabia. My agent assured me of a visa too, but I’ve been waiting for the passport for the past one year,” says Joihar, 24. “My name is not there in any FIR, but I’m facing the brunt,” he says. It is the same situation with many youngsters in Koodankulam, and family members rue this denial of opportunity to go abroad and add to the collective income.

The small-scale fishing industry, which has been going through turmoil over the past year because of the protest, is no longer profitable. “The prawn season is over and we caught nothing this year as the breeding area was declared a ‘restricted land’ by the plant authority,” says Francis Leon, a villager in Koodankulam. “The fishermen are now living off a meagre income by making bidis,” he says. The movement is being run by the locals, for which they are sacrificing their personal lives. “The government alleges that our struggle is being funded by the Catholic churchrun NGOs, but in reality, people are funding their own movement,” says Udayakumar.

Rosari, a housewife in her 50s, seconds the sentiment. “This economic stalemate has ruined our lives in the past year. We can’t send our children to school. We’ve stopped celebrating festivals,” she says. “The plant is our nemesis; it will slowly kill all the nearby villages just like it happened in Kalapakkam. Now there is no fish to catch,” says 38-year-old Belsi.

Now, the residents are waiting for Madras High Court’s verdict. “The protest has lost a bit of its sheen, because people had to carry on with their lives. But as soon as the verdict is out, which will be definitely against us, we will start afresh,” says Amrithraj, a documentary photographer, who has been recording the movement since the very beginning.

Protest trail People gather from sea and land to protest against the nuclear plant

THE PROTESTERS believe the irregularities being unearthed every day in nuclear policies will strengthen the cause and solidify the movement. In an RTI reply, the National Disaster Management Authority recently revealed that India does not have a policy on spreading public awareness about a possible nuclear disaster. “It can only deal with a disaster after it has taken place. The State is playing with its subjects in the name of development,” says Udayakumar.

Till the Koodankulam nuclear power plant gears up for its operation, the villagers find themselves in a stalemate. “There is no more faith in the state government too,” says Udayakumar. “Jayalalithaa supported us as the leader of Opposition but now that she is in power, nothing is being done,” he says. There is no support from nearby states like Kerala either. “They want 500 MW of electricity from this plant, but forget that in case of a disaster, they are susceptible in an equal measure,” he says.

Curiously enough, two windmills from the Tamil Nadu Energy Department Agency stand in the premises of the plant. Does the administration know that this grid alone produces 3,500 MW electricity from the windmills, almost twice as much as the much-hyped nuclear plant?

Soumik Mukherjee is a Photo Correspondent with Tehelka.
soumik@tehelka.com

 

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