We are the children of the Porattam ( struggle) against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Thirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu in Southern India. As we write this it will be 588 days since we have been holding the porattam in the stage of the Lourde Matha church in the Idinthakarai village.
We have gone through many phases in the past one and a half years. The Fukushima disaster and the terrible sound of the trial run in the Nuclear power plant so close is what made all of us really think about the disaster which might befall us. Since then we have been asking the Government many questions regarding the impact of the Nuclear Power plant on our health, on the ocean life, air and soil that sustain us, on our livelihoods, on the safety of the region which has been areas with tremors, subsidence and tsunami… all to no avail! We have stood in the sea, walked the beaches, held press conferences, buried in the sand, danced, sung and shouted slogans, travelled to many places and spoken but there has been no answer.
We have been chased, beaten and injured by tear gas shells. We have been held captive in our own villages with no bus or regular transport facilities. We have stayed for days either in our own homes or unable to go home as Police surrounded us. We have had Section 144 declared for months on end- now too it is on till April 9th after we had the siege on March 11 when more than 1000 boats went to sea. Our dear Uncle Ganeshan has been taken away ten days back from his village Koodankulam and locked up. Our fathers and brothers have stayed away from fishing for days. We have stayed away from school for weeks. Our mothers and aunts have been locked up for months in jail.
All because we asked some questions and questioned the Nuclear Power Plant. We raised many doubts about the intense and cruel suppression of our democratic rights to pursue our own lives in the homeland that belongs to us. We proclaimed we are not illiterate and stupid, but capable of understanding the hideous and unjust face of the representatives of people ( as they are called).
It has been a great learning experience growing up with the Porattam. We have met so many interesting people involve in true life struggles from all over the country. We have had activists, journalists, poets and film makers from Japan, Australia and UK visiting us with stories from their own country. We have seen so many films and pictures of the disasters connected to Nuclear Energy. We have been supported by students from various schools and colleges. We have met great people like Mahasveta Devi and V.R.Krishna Iyer, Aruna Roy and Medha Patkar all of whom have spoken for us and about us.
Today has been a happy day for us. We realize more than ever that Knowledge is the greatest power in the world. The fact that each one of us in the struggle have been made aware of the various details of the Nuclear lobby is what has gained us the true strength to pursue our goal. From the 8 year old to the 80 year old, we speak with clarity about why we are staying steadfast with the movement against Nuclear Energy.
Today we sat in the new Reading space that has been created in the stage – the real stage of our simple lives. The Reading space was formed with contributions that was made by people towards the book No: Echoes Koodankulam. We know that many of us are characters in the book and it has taken the message of our porattam far and wide. We are so thankful to all who gave their contributions so that this space was made possible. On the day the book was released, 2 of our close friends, Labika and Ignesh travelled all the way to Kochi to receive the book from Mahasveta Devi. She told them that is easy to say Yes, but we should learn to say No. The porattam has shown us the way to say No boldly and non-violently, persistently and continuously. We have heard that there has been small but very intense discussions about the anti-nuclear movement in our village in Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and many parts of Kerala centering around No: Echoes Koodankulam. It has been heartening to hear about travels with the book.
We love to read and write. Today Melrit auntie who is in charge of the library gave us each a book and we all sat out in the sand and read. It was nice to see that many of the books had writings in both Tamil and English. Some of the mothers in the courtyard were reading it out to the younger ones. Many of the books had colourful illustrations that attracted the attention of the tiny tots. While reading and imagining the stories, many of us forgot the tension that has been pervading our lives for 580 days. We became children, with fantasies and dreams, with free thoughts and wild imaginations. This is real childhood. But some of us also know that we have to gain knowledge and excel in our studies so that the message of our dear porattam days will be always a source of inspiration. We have been tempered and seasoned by its power. We want to give back to these villages what it has given us- the sense of belonging and space, the self esteem and independence that our hard working forefathers have left us, the power of honesty and dedication that this coming together has taught us. For this we all are glad today- for the diverse spaces, including the Reading space this Porattam has given us.
Anitha.S ( [email protected]) after travelling to Idinthakarai with second set of books for Reading space bought with Contributions to NO: Echoes Koodankulam. Conversations with Ignesh, Labisha, Labika, Shobhana, Selja, Shyamili, Pinochio, Anselvam, Sundari, Chellamma, Mary, Leela ,Rani, Meera ,Udayakumar, Milton, Pushparayan, Kebiston.
Thanks to Tulika team ( Chennai ) and the Sudarshan Book Centre, Nagercoil for their help and support.
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