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Anti nuclear struggle in India was funded by people

‘Our struggle was funded by the people’

A. SHAIKMOHIDEEN S.P. Udayakumar.

Interview with S.P. Udayakumar, coordinator, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy. By T.S. SUBRAMANIAN

S.P. UDAYAKUMAR, coordinator of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), was consistently in the news from September 2011 to July 2013 for his opposition to the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. His name is mentioned in the Intelligence Bureau (I.B.) report titled “Concerted Efforts by Select Foreign Funded NGOs to ‘take down’ Indian development projects”.

Paragraph three of the communication, dated June 3, 2014, signed by S.A. Rizvi, Joint Director of the I.B., says: “In 2011, anti-nuclear activism stalled the nearly commissioned Russian-assisted, Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu. The protests were spearheaded by Ohio State University-funded, S.P. Udayakumar, and a host of Western-funded NGOs. The larger conspiracy was unravelled when a German national provided Udayakumar with a scanned map of all nuclear plants and uranium mining locations in India. The map included contact details of 50 Indian anti-nuclear activists, revealing an intricate network aimed to ‘take down’ India’s nuclear programme through NGO activism.”

The role of NGOs in mobilising opposition to the KKNPP came under scrutiny in 2012 after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Science magazine that “there are NGOs, often funded from the United States and the Scandinavian countries, which are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces”.

It was in this context that Frontline interviewed Udayakumar. While his reply to the first question is taken from his Facebook page, he answered the other questions over telephone. Excerpts:

The I.B. report talks about your “deep and growing connection with the U.S. and German authorities….” It insinuates that the money you received from an unsolicited contract as a consultant with the Ohio State University could have been used to fuel the anti-Kudankulam nuclear power project agitation.

It is a ridiculous and libellous claim that I was contracted through NGOs and I was submitting “fortnightly reports” to them. In fact, I worked as an off-campus Research Fellow in the International Programme of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA, for several years. The Director of the Kirwan Institute was one Professor john a. powell [he does not use capital letters in his name], a reputed scholar in civil rights, who had been my employer at the Institute on Race and Poverty, University of Minnesota-Minneapolis, USA, between Fall 1997 and Spring 2001. I had worked with him there as a Research Associate and Co-Director of Programmes and that was why he chose me for the Kirwan assignment. I travelled to the Ohio State University campus, Ohio, a few times also. For the Kirwan Institute, I did several research and writing assignments on globalisation, racism, minority welfare, BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa], etc. I never did any research and writing project on India’s development or India’s nuclear programme. I left that Research Fellow job in Spring 2011 when the Kirwan Institute reorganised itself under a new administration.

Similarly, Sonntag Rainer Hermann is not my “contact in Germany”. He was an acquaintance from Nagercoil, my home town in Tamil Nadu. He was a hippie-type, staying in a cheap hotel in Nagercoil, and participated in our anti-nuclear events. I did not receive any information or maps or monetary help from him, nor did I give him any. If he had done something illegal or dangerous, why did the Indian authorities deport him hurriedly without taking any legal action? I asked this question even when he was deported in February 2012.

In my humble opinion, the Indian authorities must begin to believe that “ordinary citizens” of India such as farmers and fisherfolk have a mind of their own and can take an intelligent stand on issues such as setting up a nuclear power park or other such dangerous projects in their backyard. Those who stand up, speak up and try to protect our illiterate people’s land, water, air, sea, food security and nutrition security should not be considered and insulted as foreign stooges, money launderers or smugglers.

The Indian authorities should acknowledge the simple fact that we do what we do because we love this country and its peoples. If this is how we—honest, responsible and law-abiding citizens—are treated, abused and harassed, this will only send wrong lessons to our youth and promote extremism and terrorism in the country. The I.B. report tends to blame all the hawala transactions, religious conversions, caste clashes… on the NGOs and their activities. This augurs ill for our country that has pluralistic ethos and democratic politics. I am afraid this fascist presupposition of the I.B. report is a precursor for stringent action against individuals, groups, people’s movements and minorities. As I have been singled out in this report and mentioned by name, I fear for my life and for my family’s safety and security….

The insinuation is that NGOs used the money sent to them from abroad for instigating the agitation at Idinthakarai against the Kudankulam project.

I have told you several times that no NGO money has been used for the struggle. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and V. Narayanasamy, then Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office [PMO], made similar allegations against us. If the allegations were true, why did they not take action against me? Why did they not arrest me? They are belittling us. They are humiliating us. They are playing a game. I have sent a legal notice to the Union Home Ministry. If there is no reply within a week, I will file a writ petition.

Soon after Manmohan Singh made the allegations in 2012, the Union Home Ministry revoked the licences given to three NGOs in Tamil Nadu for diverting funds from abroad for the anti-nuclear campaign at Kudankulam. Do your remember the NGOs’ names?

I do not know the names of these organisations. I read that they were taking action against some NGOs but I have never seen any government report or document, evidence and conclusions arrived at about the allegations against these NGOs.

The Centre froze the bank accounts of three NGOs—the Tuticorin Diocese Association; the Rural Uplift Centre, Nagercoil; and Good Vision.

I never had any contact with them. I had nothing to do with these NGOs. I never followed what they were doing. They never supported me in any of my activities.

You are running an NGO.

I am not running an NGO. I have a trust called SACCER [South Asian Community Centre for Education and Research] Trust. It is running a school. It is a legal requirement in Tamil Nadu to set up a trust to run a school.

Manmohan Singh said India’s nuclear power programme got into difficulties because NGOs, mostly based in the U.S., were working against it. Narayanasamy alleged that the NGOs, which were receiving money to do social service, were using it for anti-nuclear protests. You sent them legal notices because you said you were the convener of the movement and you assumed that these allegations were made against you. What happened to your legal notices? Did they reply to you?

Narayanasamy sent a reply to me, saying that he never made any such statement. The Prime Minister kept quiet. He never talked about this afterwards. There was absolutely no truth in that thing.

What thing?

That we received support from American and Scandinavian NGOs. I never had any help from Scandinavian NGOs…. My point is I never received even a single rupee from any Indian NGO or international NGO to conduct the struggle at Idinthakarai. For the past three years, they could not prove the allegations. If they prove the allegations, I am prepared to go to jail.

How have you been able to sustain the struggle?

First of all, it was funded by the local people. I have told you umpteen times that it was funded by fishermen, farmers, those who roll bidis, schoolchildren and people from many walks of life. Fishermen contributed 10 per cent of their income every two weeks. More importantly, ours was a Gandhian struggle, organised in a simple manner, in a frugal way. We did not raise any cut-outs, placards, banners or posters. You have seen the pandal and the frugal facilities we have at Idinthakarai. It was a down-to-earth, simple, people’s struggle. We did not have many requirements.

How do you plan to take the struggle forward?

I am doing anti-nuclear work as my duty. I see this anti-nuclear activity as the duty of an informed citizen in this democratic country. I do not have ulterior goals and hence I do not need any money from foreign countries or foreign agencies. India, being a highly and densely populated country, cannot afford to have a Fukushima-type of accident. So we are trying to prevent such calamities before they happen in India.

The third and fourth reactors are also going to come up at Kudankulam. Is this a setback to the PMANE?

We never started this struggle with the intention of physically stopping the plant. This is a democratic, peaceful movement, trying to raise people’s awareness about the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear weapons. We are hopeful this will happen sooner or later. We will change India’s nuclear policy. We do not expect results overnight. When educated and public-spirited people come forward and work for a public cause, they should not be insulted and hounded by the authorities. It is not good for our civil and political society.

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If anything happens to me, IB and government are responsible’ – S P Udayakumar, anti nuke activist

June 19, 2014 13:57 IST,
A Ganesh Nadar in Nagercoil, rediff.com
S P Udaykumar

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‘Both (the BJP and the Congress) are two sides of the same coin. Both are equally corrupt, both are equally communal and anti-India.’

‘The government doesn’t listen to people’s opinion anymore. They are more interested in pleasing their foreign masters and their corporate friends. They are not interested in the people of India.’

‘I am a threat to nuclear energy. I am a threat to the global nuclear industry. The governments of India, Russia, France and America are all together now. We are a threat to all of them. Their business interests are hurt. They are going to dump their outdated technology on the hapless people of India.’

Anti-nuclear activist S P Udayakumar, who has been called ‘a threat to the economic security of India’ in a secret report on NGOs the Intelligence Bureau submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office, and who has sent a legal notice to the home ministry for ‘defaming’ him, speaks to A Ganesh Nadar.

S P Udayakumar, the anti-Koodankulam activist, is an upset man today. He feels false propaganda against him by the government has endangered him and his family. “What if people believe this nonsense that I am a threat to the economic security of my country? They might attack us on the road. As it is my school has been attacked twice earlier.” Udayakumar has even dashed off a legal notice to the Union home ministry for ‘defaming’ him in the matter and to clear his name.

He is the leader of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy that has been spearheading an agitation against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant for three years now. He has more than 300 cases against him and he contested the Lok Sabha elections unsuccessfully on an Aam Aadmi Party ticket from Kanyakumari.

A secret Intelligence Bureau report to the PMO has named Udayakumar in a list of NGOs it calls a ‘threat to the economic security of the country’.

There are three specific allegations against him:

The Ohio University funded his protest.

Americans funded his protest.

Certain European countries funded his protest and his contact man was a German national who was asked to leave India.

Udayakumar, who has a doctorate in political science, rubbished these allegations and also spoke at length on how he is dealing with the situation. He spoke to rediff.com’s A Ganesh Nadar in Nagercoil.

The first allegation is that Ohio University funded your protest?

John Powell was my boss between 1997 and 2001, when I worked at the University of Minnesota. I returned to India in 2001. Powell moved from the University of Minnesota to the University of Ohio as the director of the Kirwan Institute.

He called me and said ‘Why don’t you join me as the work is similar to what you were doing in Minnesota?’. They were studying the relation between poverty and race. I agreed and went and worked there. I joined as a research fellow of the international programme.

We were focusing on globalisation, minority welfare, racism and other related issues. We were doing research. None of our projects had anything to do with India, or nuclear power in India or nuclear power in any other country in the world. The Kirwan Institute was least bothered about India’s development or about India’s nuclear activities. This is a fact.

You have a doctorate from Ohio University?

I have a PhD in political science from the University of Hawaii.

Tell me more about Ohio.

This was a research institute set in a reputed university of the United States. To call that institute an NGO is complete nonsense. They will not fund any protest against nuclear energy. They are an institute researching race and poverty.

What were you doing there? Connecting race and poverty?

Yes race and poverty, minority welfare and globalisation. How all the benefits of globalisation are heaped on the top of the pyramid and not at the bottom. How racism plays a role in opportunity structure.

Many of my projects have been published in reputed magazines and books.

You firmly believe that there is a connection between race and poverty?

Oh yes. If you look at the global composition you will see that most of the poor people are coloured. If you look at opportunities, white people have a lot more opportunities than the coloured people. It is obvious that there is a correlation between race and poverty.

Why are the Adivasis and Dalits poorer than the Brahmins in this country?

You are saying that in India there is a relation between poverty and caste?

Yes. Minorities are poorer than the majority in the population. It is the same structure all over the world. Opportunities are availed by people who have more power. The so called superior races and higher castes have got more opportunities and political power and they lead better lives with more amenities.

Let’s go to the next allegation: ‘Udaykumar got unsolicited contract benefits’. It’s obvious you did not ask for it, but you got it. Another allegation is that the Americans funded the protests because Koodankulam is a Russian project.

(laughs) I don’t believe that out of 120 crore people, the Americans would choose Udayakumar to protest against Koodankulam because it is a Russian project. I am not a movie actor, I am not a religious guru, I am not a sports hero.

They chose you because you worked there.

Yes, I studied there, I worked there. But Subramanian Swamy and P Chidambaram also studied there. There are lot more powerful people who have studied and worked there. I am an insignificant person. I am a small little man from a little town called Nagercoil.

If they wanted to stop the nuclear project would they chose Udayakumar or Dr Manmohan Singh or one of his ministers?

Why would they choose a Hindu to talk to the fishermen community to agitate? (Most fishermen in Koodankulam are Christians). I do not belong to their caste, religion or profession.

It is a completely absurd and nonsensical claim. Actually the Americans would be more interested in running the Koodankulam plant than shutting it down.

Only if the Koodakulam plant runs will they get a chance to honour the Indo-American nuclear deal.

In spite of India having a nuclear deal with the US, it is the French and the Russians who have got plants here, not the US. So they are upset and are sponsoring protests.

That is why my bank accounts have been verified twice. The accounts of the Tuticorin social service have been checked. Every church in this area has come under the scanner. They have frozen my bank accounts and my school trust accounts for two years. They have not found anything. They have analysed all my transactions.

They have concluded that I have received money from the Americans. It is a completely absurd statement. It is not based on facts.

What about your European donors and your German contact?  

Sonntag Rainer is not my German contact. He is a friend I met in my hometown Nagercoil. When he first came to India someone had given him my address and he came and met me. He was a nature lover and joined our agitation against Koodankulam as a wellwisher. He used to stay in a very cheap hotel, he wasn’t rich.

Once in a while he used to come home and eat with us. He didn’t have money to give us, neither was he funneling money from Scandinavian countries to us as alleged by the IB.

One day, in February 2012, I was told that Rainer was being deported. Rainer did not give me any map. I know more about Indian nuclear activity than Rainer. He doesn’t need to tell me or show me where the nuclear installations are. So the news about maps on laptops is nonsense like everything else in their report.

All information is available on the internet or you can Google it. We don’t need Rainer. If he had really indulged in anti-India activities they should have put him in jail, not deported him. They knew they did not have a case to keep him in jail so they deported him. He has not been in touch with me after going back.

He was made an example for others. If you protest against the government you have had it. The government doesn’t like anyone finding fault with it or going against it. Activists are always prosecuted to stifle their voice in favour of the poor and weak.

Your agitation, though powerful, was finally a failure. You could not stop the plant and you could not get them to implement even one of the safety measures you suggested.  Your agitation too has closed down.

The agitation has not stopped. Even now as we speak, there are 200 to 300 people sitting in the pandal at Idinthakarai. They are sitting in protest. The protest is not a failure, it is not over.

Yes, we have not been able to stall the plant but we never claimed that we would be able to stall it. We are fighting the monstrous State of India. We don’t have their access to taxes, technology or manpower. We don’t have their political power or anything like that.

Why are you calling the Indian government monstrous?

It is so huge. It doesn’t listen to people’s opinion anymore. They are more interested in pleasing their foreign masters and their corporate friends. They are not interested in the people of India.

You made these allegations against the Congress government which is no longer in power. You cannot say the same thing about the new government.

This government also favours foreign interests and multinational corporations. They want to ‘develop the country’ at the cost of local people and the environment.

So you think the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party are the same?

Both are two sides of the same coin. Both are equally corrupt, both are equally communal and anti-India.

You mean anti-India or anti-environment?

Anti-environment, anti-people and therefore anti-India. If you are pro-India you should support the people of India. You should value Indian life. You should give priority to Indian interests and not foreign interests.

When you start working for foreigners, making sure their agreements are honoured, making sure they make good profits, then you are anti-India.

One of the reasons the US has not come to India is the nuclear liability law. Are you not going to give credit to the government for framing that law?

They are now trying to bend that law to accommodate US interests. Just to get foreign funds they are finding loopholes in that law. Just look at defence procurements. Just look at FDI is so many sectors of the economy.

If you are interested in India’s interest in many of these sectors, these guys should not be allowed like defence, railways. They are a security threat in these sectors. Our interests should be protected and promoted.

You want weapons to be made by Indian companies?

I don’t believe in weapons. You give the people their basic amenities, you look after them properly. Now they have nothing, give them something worthwhile. Give them a good life. Then they will want to fight and defend their country. Now they have nothing to lose, they won’t fight and you need a mighty army with imported weapons to defend our borders. First look after the people and then look for weapons and the army.

You were earlier a national security threat, now you are a threat to the economy?

I am a threat to nuclear energy. I am a threat to the global nuclear industry. The governments of India, Russia, France and America are all together now. We are a threat to all of them. Their business interests are hurt. They are going to dump their outdated technology on the hapless people of India.

We point out their faults and so we are being targeted. Unfortunately some people in this country believe these stories. That is the irony of it.

This is becoming a threat to my life and to the security of my family.

How and why do you say that?

When they name me like this. When they call me an Indian a security threat for whatever reasons, it sends a wrong message to the wrong people. When I walk on the streets someone may say here goes a traitor and attack me. I might get killed. My school has been attacked twice. You know my people were attacked inside the Tirunelveli collector’s office in full view of the public.

If something happens to me the Intelligence Bureau and the Government of India are responsible. By maligning me and putting my life at risk.

There is a saying ‘give a dog a bad name then hang him’.

Exactly. That’s a very good proverb, very appropriate.

Read more here-  http://www.rediff.com/news/interview/if-anything-happens-to-me-ib-and-government-are-responsible/20140619.htm

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I Fear for My Life – says Anti Nuke activist – S. P. Udayakumar

5711691846_8fce7ecba7
[Backdrop]
One Vicky Nanjappa has written an article entitled “IB alerts government over ‘mischievous’ NGOs” in rediff.comon June 9, 2014. The following excerpts sum up the main arguments of the article based on the classified IB report:
Many out of the total 85,000 NGOs operating in the country are using foreign funds to indulge into a lot of mischievous activities to hamper social and economic development, the Intelligence Bureau has alerted the Union home ministry in a report.”
 
The most obvious interference from an NGO was found at the Kundankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu. The protests that erupted against the plant had puzzled several intelligence agencies. The IB had then submitted a report to the then MHA about a US-based that was allegedly orchestrating the villagers’ protests. However, the home ministry under the United Progressive Alliance government at that time had made a statement about the same and left it at that. With a new government in place, the IB has once again raked up the issue and wants stringent action against such NGOs.”
“These NGOs have been set up with the help of funds from the US, UK, Germany and other countries only to ensure that some of the developmental projects run into troubled waters, the report points out.”
“Earlier these NGOs created rifts on the basis of caste discrimination, religion and human rights. Today they have been tasked to stall major projects by staging protests.”
“These NGOs work along with some unions who are paid a major chunk of money to stage protests, the report notes. The money on offer is so lucrative that these unions never come to the discussion table and this has been a very strange trend as more often than not one does not realise what they are protesting for, the report notes.”
“The report states that the conversion racket is immense and huge sums of money are being pumped in from the foreign countries through some NGOs to lure people into conversion.”
‘Such issues are bound to create a social divide as a result of which there is constant tension and this is very counter-productive to the growth of a region which is marred by conflict,’ the IB report states.”
[Part II]
Now Priyadarshi Siddhanta, Assistant Editor, The Indian Express, New Delhi, has emailed me saying: “we have read through a report prepared by an Indian government agency, which has referred to your role n anti-nuclear protests. …Specifically, we would like to seek your comments on the following paras excerpted from the report:”
[1] “An enquiry of Udayakumar had revealed a deep and growing connection with the US and German authorities. In July 2010, Udayakumar received an unsolicited contract from he Kirwan Institute for Study of Race and Ethnicity at the Ohio State University USA as a consultant on Group, Race, Class and Democracy Issues through NGOs. He was paid $ 21, 120 upto June 2011 in a US bank account in his name and was contracted to earn another $ 17, 600 upto April 2012 for fortnightly reports.”
[2] “…As a result, Udayakumar’s contact in Germany, one Sonntag Rainer Hermann (German national) was deported from Chennai on February 27, 2012. Hermann’s laptop contained a scanned map of India with 16 nuclear plants (existing or proposed) and five uranium mine locations marked prominently. The map also included contact details of 50 Indian anti-nuclear activists hand-written on small slips of paper with Blackberry PIN graph. The map was sent via email to five prominent anti-nuclear activists, including Udayakumar.”
My Response:
It is a ridiculous and libelous claim that I was contracted through NGOs and I was submitting “fortnightly reports” to them. In fact, I worked as an off-campus Research Fellow in the International Program of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, at the Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA for several years. The Director of the Kirwan Institute was one Professor john a. powell (he does not use capital letters in his name), a reputed scholar in civil rights, who had been my employer at the Institute on Race and Poverty, University of Minnesota-Minneapolis, USA between Fall 1997 and Spring 2001. I had worked with him there as a Research Associate and Co-Director of Programs and that was why he chose me for the Kirwan assignment. I traveled to the Ohio State University campus in Columbus, Ohio a few times also. For the Kirwan Institute, I did several research and writing projects on globalization, racism, minority welfare, BRICS etc. I never did any research and writing project on India’s development or India’s nuclear program. I left that Research Fellow job in Spring 2011 when the Kirwan Institute reorganized itself under a new administration.
Similarly, Sonntag Rainer Hermann is NOT my “contact in Germany”. He was an acquaintance from Nagercoil, my hometown in Tamil Nadu. He was a hippie-type staying in a cheap hotel here in Nagercoil and participated in our anti-nuclear events. I did not receive any information or maps or monetary helps from him, nor did I give him any. If he had done something illegal or dangerous why did the Indian authorities deport him hurriedly without taking any legal action? I asked this question even when he was deported in February 2012.
In my humble opinion, Indian authorities must begin to believe that “ordinary citizens” of India such as farmers and fisher folks have a mind of their own and can take an intelligent stand on issues such as setting up a nuclear power park or other such dangerous projects in their backyard. Those of us who stand up, speak up and try to protect our poor and illiterate people’s land, water, air, sea, food security and nutrition security should NOT be considered and insulted as foreign stooges, money launderers, or smugglers. The Indian authorities should acknowledge the simple fact that we do what we do because we love this country and its peoples. If this is how we –honest, responsible and law-abiding citizens– are treated, abused and harassed, this would only send wrong lessons to our youth and promote extremism and terrorism in this country.
The IB report tends to blame all the Hawala transactions, religious conversions, caste clashes, terrorism, impeding developmental activities, and crippling the national economy on the NGOs and their activities. This augurs ill for our country that has pluralistic ethos and democratic politics. I am afraid this Fascist presupposition of the IB report is a precursor for stringent actions against individuals, groups, people’s movements and minorities. As I have been singled out in this report and mentioned by name, I fear for my life and for my family’s safety and security. Please do the needful.
S. P. Udayakumar, Ph.D.
Nagercoil,
June 10, 2014.

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#India – Koodankulam: An Unfettered Anti Nuclear Struggle

By Anitha S

10 January, 2014
Countercurrents.org

The first weekend of January 2014 was special for us living in Idinthakarai, the coastal village most affected by the ill famed Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Our village was the venue for the National Convention of anti-nuke movements for two days. This sleepy fishing village has for the past 870 days been the epicenter of the resistance of people against the Nuclear Power Plant close to us that came without consulting or informing us. All of this may seem like old stories to many of you.But for us here just 2 kms away from the yellow domes now believed to guzzle out electricity, the story is still new and painful. We have not accepted the fact that we are to live near this virtual bomb, with no assurance given about security, safety or environmental impact especially on the ocean which sustains us.

This feeling of fear and anger is what made the two days special for us. It meant a lot to know that there are still many people and organizations in the country who care for us and our ongoing struggle. They all came to Idinthakarai and spent time with us to know more about our feelings and plans. The meetings were very serious and focused on the need to have a comprehensive Nuclear Policy for India that does not negate the democratic rights of people and communities. It shocks us that in countries like Germany a referendum is required from the local community before a nuclear facility is set up. And look at us, claiming to be the largest democracy in the world where communities and villages like us are still not informed about what is happening.

The meeting where friends and supporters from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and many other parts of the country joined was made special by the strong presence of Admiral Ramdas and Lalitha Ramdas. The clarity about the ongoing nuke- colonization of India and the need to demystify the all pervading quality of nuclear energy was the baseline of all discussions. We have understood over the years as the KKNPP started invading our lives that the nuclear establishment is begotten with lies and corruption, with outdated technology and unreliable safety and security features. We have been asked to ignore Chernobyl and Fukushima, the Tsunamis and subsidence that occur in our land and sea and live as if blissfully unaware of the sea around us that will die with the heat and nuclear radiation. It is here that those who have stood with us over the years and who keeping coming to reassure us become important and dear. That is also why the past two days has been significant for us to reinstate our resolve to continue the struggle.
We are ashamed, shocked and angered that the Prime Minister of India remarks that the greatest achievement in a decade is the Indo-US Nuclear deal. Does this deal assure the millions in our country of free and uninterrupted access to clean air, water and food/? Will it help us overlook the blaring truth that while Mukesh Ambani’s Antilla pays a monthly electricity bill of Rs 76 lakhs, 40 million people in India live in the dark? We find it ironical that the PM laid the foundation stone for Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership and the National Cancer Institute in the same venue at Jasuar Kheri village in Haryana on January 4th. While we write this, communities in Fatehabad, Haripur, Jaitapur, Kowwada, Mithirvirdi, Banswada, Chutka, Kalpakkam, Jadugoda, Thevaram, Madurai, Pazhayakayal and Manavalakuruchi are putting up tough fights to protect their right for a safe life and access to land, water, livelihood and amenities.

In this context, the meeting resolved to support all the people in the thick of struggle all over the country. The need to put pressure on political parties to make clear their Nuclear Agenda was also debated. The cost of nuclear deals and proliferation would be paid by communities and people as it would be implemented by the most undemocratic and unfair means.

We are glad that there has been so much discussions and exposure to new issues and people here- in our doorstep by the Samara Pandal in the courtyard of our Church. Our children now regularly take and read books from the library set up from the contributions received for the book “No: Echoes Koodankulam”. We are proud that our dear sister Sundari who lost many months in jail and on conditional bail away from home has penned her thoughts as a book : Unfettered Struggle (Sirai Paadal Porattam). She has lucidly written about her experiences with the Police, in jail and as a strong fighter for justice and life in this village.

Yes, our fight and struggle is unfettered. As days pass, our determination to continue voicing our demands are getting firmer and clearer. For we know that this is the fight for truth and justice, for life and health, for pure air, water and soil.

Anitha.S in conversation with Melrit, Sundari, Tamizh, Xaviearmmal, Mary, Udayakumar, Pushparayan, Milton. Reading Idinthakarai Resolution. 

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Radical nun says answering her Christian calling landed her in prison
83-year-old Sister Megan Rice continues her anti-nuclear activism in jail, pleads for a Catholic Church ‘of the streets’

Lisa De Bode

83-year-old Sister Megan Rice continues her anti-nuclear activism in jail, pleads for a Catholic Church ‘of the streets’
Portrait of anti-nuclear activists Gregory Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice, and Michael Walli in Knoxville, Tenn., on February 6, 2013.
Anti-nuclear activists Gregory Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice and Michael Walli in Knoxville, Tenn., on Feb. 6, 2013.Linda Davidson/The Washington Post/Getty Images

OCILLA, Ga. — Sister Megan Rice presses the palm of her hand against the glass in greeting, her blue eyes welcoming her visitor in a cell opposite hers. Lamps illuminate her oval face framed by cropped hair like a white halo. Her uniform — a green-striped jumpsuit, sneakers and a gray blanket that covers her slender shoulders — is not the norm for a Roman Catholic nun, but she sees her presence in Georgia’s Irwin County Detention Center as answering her Christian calling.

The 83-year-old Rice has chosen to spend the final chapter of her life behind bars.

She faces a possible 30-year prison sentence on charges of interfering with national security and damaging federal property, resulting from an act of civil disobedience she committed in July last year.

Exhausted after hiking through the woods adjacent to the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., that once provided the enriched uranium for the Hiroshima bomb, Rice, along with Michael Walli and Gregory Boertje-Obed splashed blood against the walls, put up banners and beat hammers “into plowshares” — a biblical reference to Isaiah 2:4, “They shall beat swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”

Breaking into a sensitive nuclear facility to stage a protest, the three activists were prepared for the worst. “We were very aware that we could have died,” Rice said.

Gregory Boertje-Obed, Sr. Megan Rice, Michael Walli.

Boertje-Obed, Rice and Walli.

They were not killed but found themselves incarcerated. Now she spends her days answering letters from supporters and educating other detainees about the dangers of nuclear weapons — and the connections she draws between militarism and the poverty she believes has landed so many young women behind bars. Rice accuses the U.S. government of denying citizens such basic rights such as medical care and access to education because it invests so many billions of dollars in military equipment.

“Every day is a day to talk about it,” she told Al Jazeera, raising her voice a bit to be heard through the glass wall that separates her from the outside world. “It’s not time lost by any means.”

Citing backgrounds of poverty from towns “where there are hardly any other options,” she blames a capitalist economy for not investing more in social services available to the underclass and effortlessly connects nuclear weapons to the “prison-industrial complex.” They’re not bad people, she says of her fellow inmates, but were unfortunate enough to be born into a society that gave them few choices.

“They know that they are the human fallout and the victims of the profiteering by the elite and top leaders of the corporations that are contracted to make the nuclear weapons. It’s (the money) denied to human services that should be the priority of any government,” she said.

She coughs slightly, her nose running from the cold inside the jail. Every morning, she stands in line to receive her daily dose of antihistamines, but others receive pills for conditions far worse than what she has to endure, she said. “So many should not be here,” she sighed, edging closer to the glass wall in which a talking hole was partly blocked.

“I don’t see them as perpetrators but as the victims. People are being warehoused in detention centers all over the country.”

Walli, a 64-year-old Vietnam veteran, also spends long hours talking to inmates, veterans from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder, whom he said should be getting proper treatment. “We try to do missionary work here,” he said. “We’re trying to instill the idea that human life is sacred.”

Mushrooms clouds in Nevada

Unlike most of her fellow inmates, Rice was born to an affluent family, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, whose next-door neighbor was a physicist secretly involved in the Manhattan Project, which created the world’s first nuclear weapons. Her passion for social justice came early. She followed her parents to meetings of the Catholic Workers Movement with Dorothy Day, the social-justice activist currently on course for beatification. Her mother wrote her doctoral thesis at Columbia University on the Catholic view of slavery, and her father helped serve the city’s poor as an obstetrician. “I just happened to have very conscientious parents,” she said.

At 18, she joined the Society of the Holy Child Jesus and started teaching science to girls in rural Nigeria in 1962. During summer holidays, she visited her sister’s home in upstate New York, where she would ride a horse in her habit, looking “different, not a typical nun,” said her niece, who was named after her and is now 52. Wherever Rice went, she inspired people to follow her example, such that six to eight letters reach her cell every day. “I just get this feeling that the action she did with Michael and Greg is a culmination of her life,” her niece said.

As malaria and typhoid began to take their toll, Rice permanently returned to the U.S. in 2003 and took up a position with the Nevada Desert Experience, a nonprofit organization advocating against nuclear warfare at a former test site. Ghastly visions of giant mushroom-shaped clouds became tourist attractions from hotel rooftops in Las Vegas, near which about 1,000 nuclear weapons were detonated since the 1950s.

Rice’s uncle, a former Marine who watched Nagasaki being leveled, befriended a Jesuit bishop whose mother and sister were incinerated in Japan during a Mass. They were among the estimated 60,000 people immediately killed by the blast. He devoted the rest of his life to nuclear disarmament.

“That’s how close I’ve been in touch with the reality,” Rice said.

She was pleased to report that, nearly 70 years later, Japanese media reported on her arrest and lauded her action.

Hypocrisy in disarmament?

Rice and her friends were arrested for acts of civil disobedience they devoted to global nuclear disarmament at various stages of their lives. She feels a special responsibility to draw attention to the U.S nuclear arsenal, she said.

The logic of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty under which Iran is currently being held accountable, for example, requires that the existing nuclear-armed states take steps toward disarmament. Yet in 2008, for example, almost two decades after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. was spending at least $52 billion a year on nuclear weapons, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. And only 10 percent of that spending is devoted to disarmament.

“It’s extremely hypocritical to demand disarmament (from Iran),” Rice said, recalling an anecdote involving former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who reportedly honored the activist trio during a dinner in New York City last year, where he held a photo of them close to his heart. “It showed that he honored the effort to call the U.S. to its legal obligations.”

A security warning at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

A security warning at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Erik Schelzig/AP

The activists decided to stage a protest to draw attention to the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Defunct cameras and fences couldn’t prevent the three elderly people from damaging what some call the country’s Fort Knox of uranium, raising questions about how they might restrain professional thieves with less idealistic intentions. Some members of Congress even thanked Rice and her accomplices for bringing the Y-12 facility’s security problems to the nation’s attention — the latest in a series of nuclear security breaches in recent years.

The U.S. nuclear weapons program has become the backwater of military services. In 2010 the Pentagon concluded that “the massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War era of bipolar military confrontation is poorly suited to address the challenges posed by suicidal terrorists and unfriendly regimes seeking nuclear weapons.”

Paul Carroll, program director at the Ploughshares Fund, a foundation that supports the elimination of nuclear weapons, said, “Sitting in a missile silo in the middle of the country, waiting for the day when the Soviets (attack) is a throwback. So they have moral problems. They’re rusty.”

Paul Magno, a fellow plowshares activist and loyal friend of Rice’s, said a generational disconnect pushed the nuclear issue into relative obscurity in recent years. A guest lecturer at a University of Tennessee sociology class, he said it’s become increasingly hard to impress his student audience with the gravity of nuclear warfare.

“For decades there was duck and cover and you would climb under your desk at school,” he said. “Kids today never had that moment. They don’t have any idea about nuclear winter.”

Occupy Church

Rice may see her actions as inspired by her faith, but she has had little support from within the Church establishment. Retired Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a renowned peace activist, laments the Church’s tepid stance on Rice’s detention and nuclear weapons. Citing official doctrine that explicitly condemns the use of weapons of mass destruction as “a crime against God and man himself,” he calls on colleagues to take up her cause as an exemplar of someone who stood up for what is right.

“They’re supposed to be leaders on something like this. There hasn’t been any kind of statement from Catholic bishops on what Megan has done,” he said. To be frank, Gumbleton added, “in the official church, I have to say most people don’t even know about her. And that’s really sad.”

Rice doesn’t expect much from the establishment — not even from the new pope, whose recent pronouncements have raised many eyebrows. She isn’t interested in institutions but swears instead by a grass-roots church. “The church is where the people are,” she said. The church matters only “on a local level.” She is skeptical of Pope Francis but feels encouraged by his choice of a less extravagant lifestyle than those of his predecessors, who she said had been living like “princes in their palaces.”

Her order, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, offered the lone voice of support from within the Catholic establishment.

“While we do not condone criminal activity, we would like to point out that Sister Megan has dedicated her life to ending nuclear proliferation. With the Catholic Church, she believes nuclear weapons are incompatible with the peace so desperately needed throughout the world and therefore cannot be justified,” Mary Ann Buckley wrote in a statement emailed to Al Jazeera.

Pope Francis certainly seems inclined to rebrand the Church as an institution that fights for social justice and is not afraid of protesting. “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined,” Francis wrote in the mission statement for his papacy issued last month. That’s a message that has resonated with many young people in different parts of the world who have taken to the streets to protest austerity and vast economic inequalities.

Sr. Teresa Forcades during an interview in Montserrat, Spain.

Sister Teresa Forcades in Montserrat, Spain. Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images

“American Christians have been far too polite, too quiet and too accommodating of both the injustice and the blasphemous use of Jesus’ name in committing atrocities in our nation and our world,” wrote a group styling itself Protest Chaplains in a manifesto that coincided with the Occupy movement of which they formed a part. “That’s why we want to protest with all those who, like us, know in the deepest places of our souls that another world is indeed possible.”

Rice met with Occupy activists discussing nuclear issues in New York City, “when it began in September.” She described their work as “religion doing what it’s meant to be doing.”

“The church is where the people are,” she said. “It is the people.”

A similar message has been echoed in Barcelona, where street activists known as Indignados took their cues from Sister Theresa Forcades, a Roman Catholic nun and activist who believes the current economic policy consensus among governments of industrialized nations perpetuates inequality. And like Rice, Forcades has been skeptical of Francis’ pronouncements, arguing that the new pope should be judged by his attention to women’s rights, which so far has been lacking.

Still, Rice is confidence that “it will come,” referring to the ordination of women. Last year she attended the unofficial ordination — not recognized by the Vatican — of Diane Dougherty in Atlanta. “They are preparing the way and are receiving great acceptance from lay Catholics.”

Lessons from prison

A letter from Sr. Rice sent from prison

A letter from Rice sent from prison Lisa De Bode

Her supporters say Rice’s life exemplifies the social activism needed to revive the church’s appeal among young people. Still, she’s reluctant to be cast as a hero. Her heroes, she said, are ordinary people who act “according to our conscience.”

As she awaits sentencing on Jan. 28 — facing a possible maximum term of 30 years — she borrowed phrases from Dr. Martin Luther King in a letter she sent to Al Jazeera. In it she reflected on her life, which may very well end in prison.

“On some positions, cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ And vanity comes along and asks, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?'” she wrote.

“And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but one must do it because conscience tells one it is right.”

At a court hearing in May, she told the public prosecutor her only guilt is that she waited 70 years to break into the facility “to be able to speak what I knew in my conscience.” Seven months later she said, “This is a very positive experience. It’s getting better and better.”

She remains uncomfortable being in the spotlight, looking to deflect attention to others. She settles on her fellow inmates in this prison, the ones she is helping prepare for a life outside prison bars — a life to which she herself might not return.

With them in mind, she smiled, noting simply, “I’m not alone in being misjudged.”

 

Read more here- http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/12/15/no-room-for-radicalnuninpopefrancischurch.html

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#India – Case against S P Udayakumar, others over blast near Kudankulam plant #WTFnews

 

 

CNN-IBN
Nov 27, 2013 at 12:20pm IST

Chennai: The police have filed a case against anti-nuclear activist

English: Construction site of the Koodankulam ...

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

and others in connection with Tuesday night’s explosion at Idinthakarai in Tamil Nadu, near the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Six people were killed and two injured when a country-made bomb exploded on Tuesday night in a coastal village near the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant.

A Home Ministry spokesman said in New Delhi that the country-made bomb went off “accidentally” when some miscreants were making the explosive in their hut at around 1840 hours in Idinagarai Tsunami colony, about 15 km from the nuclear power plant. Among the dead were a woman and three children who were all aged below five, police said.

A senior official of the Department of Atomic Energy said the plant is running fine and is safe. Two houses were razed under the impact of the blast, they said, adding rescue teams rushed to the pot to clear the debris and extricate people believed trapped under it.

 

Bomb disposal squad and investigation teams rushed to the spot, along with DIG of Police Sumith Saran and Superintendent of Police Vijendra Bidari. People of Idinthakarai, the hub of protests against KNPP, backed by People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, have been agitating for more than two years, demanding its closure.

Unit-1 had attained criticality on July 13 this year following protests against the project by anti-nuclear activists in areas around the complex, citing safety reasons. Police had raided Kunthankuli village near Idinthakarai in 2012 and early this year and seized some country bombs from some huts.

(With additional information from PTI)

 

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PUCL Report: Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project misleading

 

English: Construction site of the Koodankulam ...

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

 

The first reactor of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is being readied by the Nuclear Power  Corporation of India (NPCIL) for loading its nuclear fuel. Conducting site and offsite emergency  preparedness exercises are the legally mandatory norms that should be followed in order to get the  license from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) for loading this fuel. The district authorities are responsible for conducting the offsite emergency exercises with the guidance from the KKNPP  Environment Survey Lab.

 
The district authorities visited Nakkaneri, a tiny hamlet 7 km away from KKNPP on 9 June 2012 morning along with AERB, DAE and NPCIL officials. They issued a press statement in the evening that the offsite emergency training comprising three stages had been completed successfully. However, there were  news reports that countered this assertion.  Keeping the 11 March 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in mind, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) 1contemplated to conduct a fact finding mission that would shed light on the way the offsite  emergency exercise was conducted at the village. The fact finding mission members travelled to
Nakkaneri village on two separate days (13th and 20th June).

 

People of the village were interviewed.  Signed written and video affidavits were obtained from them. From the interviews with the local people, it is learnt that the district authorities did not inform the people or their representatives about the exercise that follows an offsite nuclear accident. They spent a few hours in the village but did not do any of the legally mandatory work. Then they left the village.

 

They  issued a press statement saying that the offsite emergency training comprising three stages had been  completed successfully. PUCL investigation revealed that the main content of the press note released by  the Collector following the event was indeed false. Also, it was found that the Environment Survey Lab  of KKNPP authorities have made a very big mistake by identifying an upwind site as a downwind one.

 

KKNPP is located in a windmill region. The capacity of the rotating blades of the windmills to disperse  the radioactive plume into the local micro environment has not been studied so far by the scientists of AERB.

 

Based on these findings, nine recommendations have been made. They include that the Governments of  India and Tamil Nadu should declare the Offsite Emergency Preparedness Exercise ‘reportedly’conducted on 9 June 2012 at Nakkaneri village as null and void. As no exercise was conducted it was a mockery on all the national and international regulatory codes. This warrants an appropriate action  against all concerned.

 

 

 

Full report can be downloaded here

 

 

 

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Greenpeace Launches A Unique #antinuclear Campaign

 

Greenpeace India has launched a unique campaign to create awareness about the dilution of the Nuclear Liability Act and how the government of India is planning to surreptiously  allow foreign companies to get away scot free in case of any nuclear accident in India.

Readers would remember that the government has hinted that “foreign funded hands and NGO’s” were behind the anti nuclear movement in Koodankulam. However, it failed to provide any proof of the same.

On the contrary, the government is now faced with mounting anti nuclear agitations not only in Tamil Nadu, but also at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, Rawatbhata in Rajasthan and Gorakhpur in Haryana to name just a few.

The Greenpeace advertisement informs the citizens about the true “foreign hands” who will benefit from the dilution of the Liability Act and allow these suppliers to supply shoddy reactors knowing fully well that they will not have to pay for any damages in case of accident.

The ad requests readers to give a missed call on 08049311734 and register their protest (or help contribute small amounts to sponsor the ad)which Greenpeace will collate and forward as online votes to the government of India

You Can Read the Advert Here

 

 

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Koodankulam: Latest Ground Report

 

dianuke.org

Jyothi Krishnan visited Koodankulam along with Aruna Roy on 24th July 2012, to express solidarity with the local protestors. We are thankful to her for sharing her experiences and pictures here.

Jyothi Krishnan

The government’s repeated statements of commissioning the first two nuclear reactors at Koodankulam has not deterred local the protestors in any way. Local people have been on continuous struggle for a year now, which includes the ongoing relay fast as well as the intense, indefinite fast in the month of March 2012 in which thousands participated. Our visit to Koodankulam and Idinthikkarai on 24th July 2012, our meeting with people from both these villages and the large number of people who had assembled at the protest site at Idinthikkarai, was clear proof of the people’s determination to put an end to the government’s nuclear plans on their land.

Together in Struggle: Aruna Roy and Dr. S P Udayakumar

When we reached Koodankulam, members of the Struggle Committee, Ganeshan and Rajalingam met us at the main gate of the KKNP plant. We walked through the Koodankulam village which is just 1.5 kilometres away from the plant, where about 20,000 people live. A quiet, coastal village, mostly inhabited by the Nadar community who are engaged with trade of various kinds. Amongst the people we met, four were elected representatives of the Koodankulam grama panchayat (three of whom were women members). The women and men we met as we walked through the Koodankulam village, groups of women sitting together and rolling beedis, shop keepers, passers-by, all of them had one consistent story to narrate- the story of how the police harassed them for protesting against the nuclear plant. All the people we met, including the panchayat members, had been charged with police cases for being a part of the protest against the nuclear plant. The situation is no different in the Idinthikkarai village. The women and children in Idinthikkarai were as vociferous as their sisters in Koodankulam. We spoke with Udayakumar, Pushparayan and other struggle leaders. Udayakumar and Pushparayan have been on self-imposed exile at Idinthikkarai for almost five months now. If they move out of Idinthikkarai, they may be arrested by the police. They have been confined to the Parish Priest’s Bungalow where they have been staying these past few months and the front porch of the St Lourdes Church where the relay fast is staged. In anticipation of the police arresting these two leaders, women and children sleep in large numbers around the Parish Priest’s Bungalow. The youth of the village, whom we met that day, also sleep on the village outskirts. In short, people are on the alert day and night. People from the neighbouring village of Koodankulam also take the responsibility of providing security to these two leaders.

It is an irony that while India plans to increase nuclear power generation from the existing – to by 2032, basic living conditions are still a dream for a majority of the poor in India, both rural and urban. While the country has pumped in crores of money into the KKNP, a small stream let that flows through the Koodankulam village has degraded into an open sewage channel with stagnant water. It would undoubtedly be the source of many communicable diseases in the area, particularly amongst the children. Such instances of sheer neglect makes us disbelieve the claim that energy security will improve the living conditions of the poorest in our country. The Tamil Nadu government offered a 500 crore development package in March 2012, soon after it withdrew its support for the local struggle. It was evident that the underlying motive behind providing this development package was to detract the local people from protesting against the plant. It is sad that the government was prompted to assure the people of houses and roads only when they expressed their strong dissent against the plant. More so that the government believes that it can negate people’s dissent in such a manner. One of the main components of this development package is the provision of cold storages that will enable the fisherfolk of the surrounding villages to store their fish catch. If the plant is to function, the daily release of water used to cool the plant is bound to affect the fish catch. The fish will also be exposed to routine doses of radiation. That of course does not appear to be a concern of the government.

Dr. S P Udayakumar interpreting Aruna Roy’s speech in Tamil

As most of us know, the protest against KKNP heightened following the Fukushima disaster in March 2011. Since August 2011, people from the neighbouring villages have been on continuous protest, a strong, non-violent protest. The government and the KKNP have on their part shown no inclination to engage in a dialogue with the people. The only response from the side of the government has been to charge the peaceful protestors with police cases, which includes non-bailable charges of sedition. There are people who have been charged with as many as 200 cases. Aadilingam, a visually challenged sixty-year old man from Koodankulam village had been charged with 200 cases. Selvamani, Ward Member of Koodankulam panchayat says she has no clue about the number of cases that she had been charged with. Swayambhu Nadar, a resident of Koodankulam village, an old man with severe diabetics and hypertension, barely able to walk, was imprisoned for 15 days. During this period, he had to be hospitalized. Each one had a similar story to share. Residents of the neighbouring villages of Vyravikenaru, Kurunjikulam, Vijayapathi, Aavadiyalpuram, Kamaneri, Kadutala, Tillainagar, Arasarkulam, Puthenkulam and Puthenpuli, all of which are located within a 30 km radius of the plant fear the consequences of a nuclear plant located in such close proximity. A total of 1.2 million people live within a 30 km radius of the plant.

No matter what the safety claims of the KKNP be, the fears and apprehensions of such a large population of people cannot be wished away. The KKNP has taken care to locate the staff quarters 10 kilometres away from the reactors. The Koodankulam village is just a kilometre away, and even closer is the tsunami rehabilitation colony that was built after the tsunami affected the area in 2004. In the fishing village of Idinthikkarai, the thatched sheds in which the fisher folk keep their nets face the two large domes of the reactors. If the plant functions, water released from the nuclear plant will wash the shores of Idinthikkarai in no time. Does this fall within the safety definition of the government and KKNP? People were angry about the mock safety drill that the KKNP conducted last month, which was a mandatory requirement. Instead of conducting it in the villages of Koodankulam or Idinthikkarai, they conducted it at a location 10 kilometres away. While the authorities did not intimate the local people, they brought people from outside for this exercise. When the local people questioned them, they said that they were conducting a survey of the incidence of dengue fever in the area. It is a shame that our institutions make a mockery of all regulations and assume that people will believe their claims. It was evident that people have lost all trust in the government, disillusioned and dismayed at the manner in which their legitimate dissent has been negated. And each step taken by the government aggravates this distrust. What kind of governance is this? On the one hand we talk of local self governance and panchayati raj. On the other hand, the government negates any form of self governance.

While the intensity of the struggle heightened during the past one year, discontent and dissatisfaction has been brewing ever since the KKNP acquired agricultural land for the project. Land on which they grew various varieties of pulses, beans, cotton and tamarind, was taken up by the KKNP. Some of them fought court cases, but the land was acquired. They were paid a meagre amount as compensation, ranging from Rs 200-1200 per acre of land that was acquired. They were promised jobs and development, but none of this was fulfilled. Deprived of agriculture, today a large number of women in Koodankulam earn a living by rolling beedis, getting Rs 100 for every 1000 beedis that they roll. They earn Rs 1000-1500 a month.
All the villagers- the women who roll beedis, the fisher folk, small traders like Perumal who owns a shop selling electrical equipments, the grocer, the vegetable-seller, contribute 10% of their weekly earnings to the movement, in order to meet the campaign expenses. Most villagers have joined in, except for a few contractors. While a few rich households do not openly participate in the protest, they contribute money. It is these regular contributions and of course, the conviction of the people, that have kept the movement going. People have continued to work while the normal pace of their lives has been thrown apart by police arrests and intimidations. And despite this, the Prime Minister alleges that the movement has been instigated by foreign funds.

Aruna Roy Talking to women in Idinthakarai village

Women were present in large numbers at the protest site. We were moved by the conviction with which they spoke. Said an elderly woman, “We have lived more than half our lives. We may not be around for long. But what about our children and theirs?. How can they live in such unsafe conditions?’. It was when the Fukushima disaster took place that they were convinced about the potential danger that lurks less than a kilometre away. ‘Those two domes began to frighten us’, says Poomani. ‘For a year now, coming to the samara pandal has become a daily ritual. We are forgetting how we used to lead normal lives’, said another. It is a common sight to see children sleep in the samara pandal, while their mothers attend meetings. Their exemplary behaviour in the samara pandal, as though the children had completely understood what was required of them in these difficult times. Young men and women were also present. One young man broke out into tears as he spoke with sorrow and anguish, saying that all they thought of during the past one year, was of police arrests. They were living in fear of their leaders getting arrested. There are innumerable cases where passports of local people, (including young persons absent from the struggle and protests, but inhabitants of the area) have been impounded and where fresh applications for passports have been turned down. The youth feel that they have nothing to look forward to if this plant is commissioned.

Truly, this is one of the most remarkable struggles that India has seen. If the government is serious about governance, then they should be courageous enough to place all information, facts and figures about the Koodankulam nuclear plant before the local people. Let there be an open debate on the issue. Let it not think that it can silence people’s demands for justice. What the people fear most, is the fatal consequences of exposure to radiation. Can the government assure them of a safe future?

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N-fuel complex in Rajasthan faces public anger

Sunny Sebastian

The Hindu

There appears to be considerable opposition from the local population to the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) proposed to be set up at Rawatbhata near Kota in Rajasthan. The complex, with an envisaged capacity of 500 tonnes fuel a year, is to cater to the four PHWR (Pressurized heavy water reactors) plants of 700 MWe capacity each coming up by 2016 in Rajasthan and Gujarat. In capacity, the Rawatbhata fuel complex is to be next to only Hyderabad NFC in the country which produces 850 tonnes fuel a year.

A “jan sunwai” or public hearing, organized by the Department of Atomic Energy and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) at Anu Pratap Colony in Rawatbhata on Wednesday witnessed angry protests from the local villagers. The hearing — the villagers said they were never consulted when the nuclear power plants were set up one by one, starting from 1973 — first of its kind, found the villagers and representatives of the casual labourers union complaining of unfilled promises made by the management in the past.

The hearing was attended by NFC Hyderabad’s senior official N. Sai Baba, Pollution Control Board representative K.C. Gupta, Additional District Magistrate and scientists from NEERI besides scientists, Surendra Gadekar, Sanghamitra Gadekar and energy expert, Soumya Dutta. Dr. Sanghamitra rubbished the environment study on the complex prepared by NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Institute) and termed it as a “document of untruths”.

The palpable tension perhaps justified the heavy presence of police in the premises of the New Community Centre where the hearing was held. The complaints pertained to poor development of the area, lack of employment avenues to the local population and the requirement of huge quantity of water for the existing power plants as well as the proposed fuel complex.

On June 15, the villagers held a massive rally at Rawatbhata protesting against the risks brought about by the existing plants and the proposed fuel complex. The latest incidence of radio active exposure has been as recent as that of June 23, when two workers got affected by radio active tritium vapour at Unit 5. A case currently debated is the affliction of contract labour Nand Kishore Mehar, who complains that he is not being admitted to the hospital or allowed to access the report on his urine status.

The radiation threats, complaints of risks faced by the casual labourers – who, the labourers said, are removed once they get affected — and denying the medical facilities available at the well equipped hospital in the nuclear plant premises to the local population also were points highlighted by the public and the social activists. “People are being evacuated from the area in the name of four wildlife sanctuaries but then how can the authorities allow a nuclear fuel complex in the same area,” wondered Harak Jain, leader of the local Sangarsh Samiti.

Besides, the locals feared that the uranium brought to the place for processing by truck or by train would contaminate the water and air in the area and as such the Chambal river itself was at risk.

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