We Do Not Believe in Violence… We Are the Real Patriots: SP Udayakumar
KUDANKULAM ANTI-NUCLEAR SATYAGRAHA, INDIA, 14 Jul 2014
SP Udayakumar, leader of the anti-nuclear agitation against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant(KKNPP), talks to Jiby J. Kattakayam about the movement, his name featuring in the Intelligence Bureau(IB) report on NGOs harming India’s economic interest, and his foray into politics.
Q: Where does the Kudankulam anti-nuclear movement stand now?
A: Our struggle crossed 1,000 days in May. Though the Centre is operationalising Units 1 and 2 and has inked an agreement with Russia for building Units 3 and 4 of the KKNPP, Idinthakarai’s villagers are determined to oppose this unwarranted expansion. In September 2011, when I met chief minister Jayalalithaa and told her about Mamata Banerjee deciding against the Haripur nuclear plant, she replied that Mamata could do so because Haripur was at an incipient stage. We can still pull back from constructing Units 3 and 4 but Jayalalithaa is refusing to meet us. I read that environment minister Prakash Javadekar has promised to convey fears over the Jaitapur plant issue to Modi. We request him to adopt a similar approach to Kudankulam too.
Q: Was your movement a failure? If not, what were the gains?
A: On the contrary it was a success. We do not believe in violence or physically stopping work on KKNPP. We made democracy work. We made a national debate, however limited, on nuclear policy possible. Hundreds of people, mostly poor women, were educated on the dangers of a Fukushima-like accident and they took a stand and led our protests. I am not fond of the argument that because we protested, safeguards were improved. Then how did the May 14 accident, when six labourers were scalded by hot water from the plant while doing maintenance work, happen? I stick to my stand that sub-standard material and cables were used and there was large-scale corruption. Another consequence is a growing discourse against mega projects. We are collaborating with movements against the coal-bed methane extraction project in Thanjavur district and the Sajjan Jindal Group’s iron-ore project in the Tiruvannamalai hills.
Q: The IB report painted a damning picture of your activities including allegations of collaboration with foreign entities to harm India. Your response?
A: We are for the country’s development. We are the real patriots. We are not stealing public money. Those who are selling this country taking useless, expensive, unwanted and destructive technology from foreign entities are portraying us as enemies. They are not even serious about alternative energy. They have powerful tools in their hands, including the media, to defeat us. If the IB’s allegations have any substance, why don’t they arrest me? By painting me as an anti-national, they hope to silence me. I have sent a legal notice to the Home Ministry asking why I have been unfairly maligned. I will approach the Madras High Court if they do not respond.
Q: With your colleagues Pushparayan and Jesuraj, you contested the Lok Sabha elections under the Aam Aadmi Party banner. How was the experience?
A: We expected to do better. But with just 100 full-timers and another 100 part-timers each, we together polled 50,000 votes. While we could visit each village just once, our rivals did multiple rounds. They also kept harping that voting for us was a losing cause. With a few thousand workers, we could do wonders next time. But to win, the culture of distributing money on election-eve to voters must end. Unfortunately, the AAP in Tamil Nadu is riven by factionalism. But people are realising that Dravidian politics has become a farce. With state economies now interlinked, Tamil politics cannot remain divorced from national politics. AAP is a good vehicle for building a new national movement. The AAP should coin a Tamil name for the party in TN, and raise issues close to the Tamil ethos like inter-state water sharing and the Sri Lankan treatment of Tamil fishermen to gain wider support. On the economic agenda, I stand for green politics and focusing on agriculture.
S.P. Udayakumar, Ph.D. – Tamil Nadu, India:
* SACCER-South Asian Community Center for Education and Research (promoting life-long, life-wide and life-deep education)
* 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).
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