Women against Sexual Violence & State Repression
Subject: Requesting an enquiry by SHRC, Tamil Nadu with a judicial probe into the brutal attack on women and PMANE representatives in the Tirunelveli DC’s compound in Tamil Nadu.
We bring to you notice the brutal attack in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu on the January 31, 2012 on two representatives of PMANE (People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy) accompanied by twenty women who have been peacefully opposing the Koodankulam Nuclear Power plant (KNPP). This attack by Hindu Munnani goons who were accompanied by local Congress leaders occurred when the PMANE team was on its way to the fourth meeting with members of the Central Government Expert Panel on the KNPP at the office of the District Collector who is Chief Executive of the District Administration.
Eyewitness reports point out that four of the brave women who were badly injured – Sahaya Inita (40yrs), Milred (40 yrs), Reetha (55 yrs) and Leela (62 yrs), were from the fishing community, which has been active in the non-violent campaign to stop the KNPP. During the attack, the women formed a human shield around the two male representatives of PMANE. All four women were kicked on the stomach and hit with helmets by the goons. Their hair was pulled and blouses torn. They were later treated at Radhapuran hospital and all four were complaining of severe pain all over their bodies. Inita’s right arm muscle was twisted and she sustained a bone fracture in the same arm. Mildred’s left arm tissue was ripped by fingernails of the goons. Another woman’s neck disc was dislocated.
Such violent attacks on women and other activists involved in democratic and peaceful mass movements by state and corporate sponsored goons, often in collusion with other political parties, police and security forces are on the rise in India. We have also seen this recently in Orissa and other states. What is horrifying, but not surprising in this case is that this brutal attack took place when they were inside the compound of the Tirunelveli Collectorate, while the police on duty merely watched instead of stopping the attackers. Prior to the attack, the police ignored the complaints of the PMANE team about the presence of goons in the compound. Observers also noted that when Hindu Munnani fundamentalists arrived with the Congress leaders ten minutes prior to the arrival of the PMANE team, they were allowed to go in and meet with the press. Others were however, stopped by the police and told the collector was busy. The DC who remained in his office during the attack appears to be culpable in this case.
Prior to this attack, Hindu Munnani fundamentalists have been attempting to create a rift between the mostly catholic fisherwomen and the non-Christian communities involved in the anti-nuclear energy movement in this district. After the attack, the media as well as the authorities, who also benefit from creating a rift in the non violent anti-nuclear plant movement, have portrayed the attack on the PMANE activists as a communal conflict. However, this is completely false. We believe that this attack on movement leaders and women protesters is a strategy of trying to create tensions, to divide the people on religious lines and turn the movement violent. It is therefore, heartening to hear that the community remains strongly united and that this terrible incident has actually helped strengthen the peoples’ antinuclear energy movement.
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) joins these injured women and other PMANE representatives in demanding:
1) Arrest all the attackers as well as Congress members and leaders who accompanied the Hindu Munnani goons and are responsible for direct violence and for sponsoring and/or supporting the violence. Register criminal cases against all of them.
2) Remove the District Collector from his post during the probe so that it can be conducted fairly; the District Collector as the Chief executive of the District Administration must take responsibility for the violence that occurred within his premises and under his jurisdiction.
3) Order a judicial probe on all authorities that were directly or indirectly responsible for or tacitly supporting the attack including the police officers who were mute spectators of this brutal attack; Suspend all police officers present for dereliction of their duty, specifically for not protecting the PMANE members during the attack.
4) Initiate appropriate action against the other authorities of the Koodankulam atomic power project or state found responsible for authorizing or otherwise supporting this brutal attack.
5) Stop and Scrap the Koodankulam atomic power project. Protect the environs, peoples’ right to health and life as well as their livelihoods.
Whether it is in Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Jharkhand, etc., we are deeply concerned about the growth in state and other vested interests sponsored violence on the people, which has undermined the democratic processes and institutions of our country. We therefore, appeal to the National and Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commissions to join the people of Tirunelveli and other Southern Districts of Tamil Nadu and our national campaign in condemning this heinous attack on the women and other activists in the Tirunelveli Collectorates’ office. We request you to immediately launch an investigation into the attack, probing the complicity of the police, DC and other members of the administration and help ensure that justice is served.