The Nonviolent Protest at Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant
SP Udayakumar & Antonio C. S. Rosa
Johan Galtung, the TRANSCEND Network membership, and we at TRANSCEND Media Service wish to assert our full support and express our sympathy to SP Udayakumar, one of the TRANSCEND Conveners for South Asia, and the thousands of his compatriots engaged on a 8-month old nonviolent struggle in opposition to a nuclear power plant in their backyard since the 1980s, and which has now reached the limits of their tolerance and acceptance. We extend our compassion and best wishes to the 14 protesters that, along with Udayakumar, entered an open ended hunger strike, in its 8th day on Mar 26 2012. We pray to goodness that their ordeal may end soon and without negative consequences to their health and well being.
The last 30 years proved that any possible positive aspect that may be argued has been overshadowed by the negative impacts on the environment, health, agriculture, food, radiation contamination, and a corollary of others imposed on present and especially future populations in the area and vicinities. The Fukushima disaster represented just the feather that broke the back of the dinosaur, along with India’s projected escalation of its nuclear program. The Koodankulam protest represents not only India but the whole planet, all humanity, all sentient beings and all life on Earth. These are the stakes.
Hundreds of people have been arrested in recent weeks. The Idinthakarai village, where Udayakumar resides, is being along with others completely blockaded from the outside world by the police and military, preventing even food to come in — including journalists.
Kumar, as we affectionately call him, has explained his position, and that of his 10,000-strong fellow citizen-supporters, in an Aug 29, 2011 TMS article:
Kumar and I have been friends since we were fellow Ph.D. candidates in political science-peace studies at the University of Hawaii in the 1990s, Johan Galtung being our committee advisor. He earned his doctorate, went back to India and started a school for poor village children. Thus he founded the South Asian Community Center for Education, Research and Action-SACCER in Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu, in 2001. Last week this free enrollment school with 250 children was destroyed by those who oppose his nonviolent but firm stance against nuclear energy in his country. Later we became colleagues on TRANSCEND.
In his own words, via email:
March 22, 2012:
“The situation here in Idinthakarai is still grim. There are some 10,000 people from coastal and interior villages. Most of them are women including pregnant and nursing ones. 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. On March 21 my mother received a phone call from a lawyer called T. Udayakumar, who claimed he was calling from the DGP office in Chennai. He told her 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, 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 entered the KG classrooms and destroyed all the small little chairs which my children were using to sit on. They broke all the tables and chairs and I do not understand why they punished my little children like this. The vandals 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 campaign.”
And from March 20:
“Police have arrested 18 men more at Koodankulam last night but nothing happened here at Idinthakarai. Some 5,000 women, men and children slept around St. Lourdes Church. Some 185 men and women and their Parish Priest were arrested at Koottapuli village when they sat down by the side of the road protesting against the police peacefully. They are being held at Tirunelveli armed reserve camp. The other group of nine people, including our Struggle Committee members, arrested yesterday and now charged with sedition, including Sections 121, 121A and 153A, have been taken to Tirunelveli also and we do not know where they are being held.
“Police have clamped down Section 144 in our area prohibiting people from congregating in any manner. So no one can walk or move around. Despite this curfew, people keep coming to Idinthakarai by boats and on foot. There is an unprecedented deployment of police around Koodankulam and it is highly condemnable that the police be harassing the peaceful protesters to this extent.
“Some 15 of us (eight men and seven women) including Pushparayan and myself are on indefinite hunger strike here at Idinthakarai demanding:
 the immediate release of our comrades,
 the withdrawal of the Tamil Nadu cabinet resolution,
 a thorough and complete probe of geologists, hydrologists and oceanographers into the safety issues of the Koodankulam nuclear power plant,
 release of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) signed secretly by the governments of India and Russia on liability in February 2008, and
 conduct safety drills and evacuation drills in the 30-km radius of the Koodankulam project.
“There could be public health problems and food shortage in a few days here at Idinthakarai.
“We appeal to the people of Tamil Nadu to be aware of this assault on the Tamil community.
“We appeal to the people of India to be mindful of impending nuclear nightmares in a highly and densely populated country such as ours.
“We appeal to the people of the world to keep a watchful eye on the forceful implementation of a mega nuclear project on our people without giving us any basic information about the project or conducting any public hearings.
“They are preparing to load uranium fuel rods into the reactor without conducting any safety or evacuation drills. This kind of Fascist development is taking our country to another round of New East India Companies and Neo-colonialism. God save India!”
Information from the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant nonviolent struggle is scarce as Tamil Nadu authorities imposed an efficient news blackout by blockading roads and accesses. A major reason for the strangulation of information is the authorities’ fear that the movement will spread to other areas in the country. Such phenomenon is not foreign to Indian society as history shows. That could be one of the reasons that these demonstrations have not yet captured the attention of major western news media –corporate and alternative, Internet and traditional.
“Internationally acclaimed independent journalists have urged the Tamil Nadu government to modify orders and allow journalists full access. The government is going all out to promote the interest of multinational nuclear commerce powers.” — IBN Live 25 Mar 2012.
However, TRANSCEND members inform that doctors were under order not to take the 15 hunger strikers to a hospital given the potential for violent backlashes if Kumar or others were removed from the scene. They earned a lot of respect and the staunch support of the population. The movement, which has been careful to maintain Gandhian approaches, methods and practices throughout, enjoys also the sympathy of the Catholic Church that has a large community in the region. It is believed that the potential for violent outbreaks among the 10,000 protesters guarding the hunger strikers is the main reason that Kumar has not been arrested along with over 200 others.
MY APPEAL TO YOU: please disseminate this story throughout the social media and the Internet. If you work or are somehow involved with media of any kind please make sure these developments are inserted for all to know about this 21st Century struggle for health, justice, transparency, and against corporate takeover of our planet and its resources. Thank you!
We will keep you updated as developments unfold and we access new information.
S.P. Udayakumar, Ph.D. – Tamil Nadu, India:
* South Asian Community Center for Education and Research (SACCER)
* TRANSCEND Network, South Asia Convener (TSA) (For Rethinking South Asia)
* People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)
* National Alliance of Anti-nuclear Movements (NAAM) (For a Nuclear-Free India that has No Deals, No Mines, No Reactors, No Dumps, and No Bombs).
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Mar 2012.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: The Nonviolent Protest at Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant, is included. Thank you.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
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KUDANKULAM ANTI-NUCLEAR SATYAGRAHA, INDIA: