Bela Bhatia | Agency: DNA | Thursday, September 27, 2012

On Tuesday this week, three Japanese visitors who are part of the anti-nuclear movement in Japan were refused entry to India and deported on arrival at Chennai. Reading the account sent by them from Kuala Lumpur makes for not-exactly-pleasant reading.

“When we got off the plane and approached the immigration counter, one personnel came to us smiling… [and took] us to the immigration office. [There were more than five personnel there.] … one asked me [Yoko Unoda] whether I am a member of No Nukes Asia Forum Japan. ‘You signed the international petition on Kudankulam, didn’t you?’ … another person asked, ‘Mr Watarida … he is involved in the anti-nuclear movement in Kaminoseki, right?’
‘Are you going to Kudankulam? Who invited you all? … Who will pick you up at Tuticorin airport? [they had a copy of the itinerary of the domestic flight] Tell me their names. Tell me their telephone numbers. Will you join the agitation?’ They asked many questions and surprisingly, they knew our names. I felt scared. I felt something wrong would happen to you. So I didn’t answer anything. Mr [Masahiro] Watarida and Mr [Shinsuke] Nakai also refused to answer.

At first they talked in a friendly manner. They told us that we can enter India if we gave them information about the movement in Kudankulam. But gradually they got irritated. [After] .. more than one hour … they said ‘Answer within five minutes, otherwise you will be deported.’ We answered …but they didn’t get satisfied with our answer. …We were taken to the Air Asia air plane and it took off immediately.”

This is a telling statement about our democracy. So, only certain kinds of imports are allowed. A harmful technology that more advanced nations like Germany are pulling out of is allowed. The French Areva and its 18 billion euros to fund the EPRs (European Pressurized Reactors) in Jaitapur, a dangerous and expensive experiment to say the least (these will cost many times more than the indigenous reactors that have been used in India so far and pose unforeseen hazards since it is untried technology) are allowed. The scientists and other advocates of nuclear energy are allowed.

Allowed, so unquestioningly that hundreds of policemen are deployed to wield their lathis on a peacefully protesting people, thousands can find false cases slapped on them, and non-bailable arrest warrants can be issued against their leaders.

Their crime? Saying ‘No’ to the violence of a technology that represents “poisonous development” to them. It is a sad day for India when activists of a movement like PMANE (Peoples’ Movement Against Nuclear Energy) that has used non-violent and democratic means of struggle for the last three decades are forced to go underground.

So let’s get this straight. What are Indian citizens supposed to do? Are we supposed to, with quiet acquiescence, only say “yes”.Yes to plunder and loot of natural resources; yes to dehumanising poverty and growing inequalities despite national “growth”; yes to endemic corruption; yes to intimidation and strong arm tactics; yes to fabrication of charges and ignominy of faceless undertrials; yes to the definitions that the State imposes on us – of what construes “development”, “national”, “public-interest”, “legal”, “democracy”? When law is misused by a legal authority — authoritatively — such an “authority” makes you shudder.

Perhaps the government should be reminded of the long history of another kind of “globalisation” that has existed between peoples of the world. To give one example, Buddhism travelled to Japan and is today more embedded in Japan than in India.Knowledge knows no borders. Nuclear-related mistakes made by one government need not be repeated by another. In this respect, the experience of the people of Japan – regarding nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants – is unparalleled.

The three activists were going to visit India for only a few days. They had hoped to avail of the tourist visa on arrival to visit the “temples of modern India”. They came in solidarity, good will and peace. Neither they nor their friends in India had imagined that being “anti-nuclear” would be seen as a threat by the Indian government.

Kaminoseki and Kudankulam are two struggles that started at roughly the same time. The fisher-folk and farmers of Kaminoseki have been protesting the proposed Kaminoseki nuclear power plant arguing that their present way of life was harmonious with nature and that they did not want the “development” that the nuclear power plant offered, especially with its concomitant dangers. The struggle of the people of Kaminoseki and Kudankulam is a struggle for determining a way of life – a different kind of self-determination.

People in many parts of the world today have enough evidence at their command to come to the conclusion that there can be no “peaceful” use of a technology that has seeds of destruction and annihilation. I am not a member of the No Nukes Asia Forum. But I will soon be. And am I going to Kudankulam?Definitely. Coming?

Bela Bhatia is honorary professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai l[email protected]