The Hidden Face of Indian Democracy


Sumeet Grover - The Huffington Post

Thanks to the freedom of speech and expression we are guaranteed and relish in Britain that I am able to write this article without any physical threat to my life or my house, whilst in a village called Koodankulam in South India, large-scale human rights and constitutional rights abuse are being carried out by the Indian government, police and para-military forces on its own people for exercising their right to freedom.

One might be taken by shock, because as it is known to the world, India is the world’s biggest democracy, but barricades have blocked as many as 10,000 villagers around Koodankulam from access to the outside world, with food, water and electricity supplies cut off to them, which affects men, pregnant women and children. To add to this, all of these on-going abuses of Article 19 (Clause 1) of the Indian Constitution as well as Article 19 and 20 of the UN Declaration of Human rights are being kept as a closely guarded secret since police have stopped Indian as well as foreign media from any coverage of isolating its own people on a large scale.

But in spite of thousands of security forces marching around these 10,000 villagers, in the age of Internet, no amount of injustice and behind-the-scene stories go untold, as in the face of life threats, letters by some key people are being sent out to the international peace research community with desperate cries to protect their lives and speak out for them.

So why is the Indian government voting for slow death of thousands of these people, many of whom are fasting unto death, scenes which invoke horrific images of opt-in suicides, when these same people voted for the government in power?

The peaceful and non-violent protests, Gandhian resistance, carried out by these people are in protest of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP), which is on the verge of being commissioned on the sea-coast that has a history of tsunami and tremors, and as many as 1 million people live within 30km radius with hundreds living within half a mile of the plant. Not only is this plant prone to earthquakes, the Indian government has also kept the safety assessments of the plant as a close secret, raising several life-critical questions, in response to which, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has accused NGO’s from the US and Scandinavia to be instigating these protests, and upon repeated challenges to reveal the names of these NGO’s or resign as the PM, he has failed to provide evidence for his false accusations against his own people.

Every day the police beat some of these non-violent protesters, file legal cases against shop-keepers for not opening their shops in protest, and force fishermen to go by the sea to send out a message of normalism to the world. Meanwhile, hundreds still remain arrested for demanding transparency and democratic involvement, and the government has filed legal cases of “waging a war against the State” against its non-violent leaders. Is this not déjà vu? China or Burma?

Being in Britain, with enormous amounts of rights guaranteed by the British as well as EU laws, it is perhaps difficult for us to empathise with these people, about 70% of whom are illiterate and cannot go to Twitter or YouTube, like the youth during the height of Arab Spring did. But as I read disturbing letters by some key activists writing under life threat day after day, I wonder if we in Britain can do something to give voice and justice to these people who would either die on a fast-unto-death or in the backyard of a nuclear plant? This, is the real hidden face of Indian democracy, which we will not find in the recent “Incredible India!” adverts on Sky News.

On a closing note, as a poet, I certainly have pressed ahead with ‘Poetry in Resistance’ for the people of Koodankulam on the Global Poetry site.


Sumeet Grover:

– Member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and of the TRANSCEND Art & Peace Network

– Coordinator of Global Poetry

– A software engineer originally from India, based in the UK.

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