SP Udayakumar says he needs to travel abroad to fulfill academic obligations and earn a living.

'Please help me get my passport back too,' anti-nuclear protestor pleads with Sushma Swaraj

Photo Credit: IANS
Days after a British newspaper reported that Sushma Swaraj helped fugitive businessmen Lalit Modi obtain UK travel documents after his Indian passport was impounded, anti-nuclear protestor SP Udayakumar has written to the external affairs minister asking for similar “humanitarian help”.

In the message, a copy of which has been uploaded on his Facebook page, Udayakumar pleaded with the minister to help him and hundreds of others involved in the protests against the Koodunkulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu to recover their passports. The documents were revoked after “false and fabricated charges” were clamped on them by the police, he claimed.

A great many of the protestors have been charged with sedition and waging war against India.

Since 2011, Udayakumar, the coordinator of an organisation called the Peoples’ Movement against Nuclear Energy , has been spearheading protests against the Rs.15,000 crore  Koodankulam nuclear plant being built in Tirunelveli with Russian assistance. They claimed that the plant was unsafe and would destroy the livelihoods of the area’s fishermen.

Contentious history

The Jayalalithaa government had stopped the construction of the plant in September 2011 but resumed activity in March 2012. The first unit of the Koodunkulam nuclear plant attained its criticality last year.  However, the cases filed against Udayakumar and hundreds of villagers were not lifted. Udayakumar, who returned from the US to India to participate in the protests, has paid a heavy price for his involvement, as have nearly 500 other participants.

Udayakumar  told Scroll.in that when a person from six villages in the area arrive at the Tiruvananthapuram airport, an hour’s drive from Koodankulam, “the immigration authorities just inform them that due to filing of cases against them, their passports were impounded”.

The villagers are always given the runaround when they try to get additional information, he said. “They have to run from pillar to post,” he said. “If they go to the Koodankulam police station the Station Officer will say that they have nothing to do with the matter and direct them to the district Superintendent of Police ’s office and the story is the same there too.”

In addition to nearly 500 youths having their passports impounded, new applicants are denied documents because the police refuse to give them security clearance, claiming that they have cases against them, said Udayakumar. Many of these youth were employed in the merchant navy, so the revocation of their passports has rendered them jobless.

Udayakumar, who has a PhD in political science from the University of Hawaii in the US, said that he is required to travel abroad to fulfill academic obligations. Besides, he earns his living through teaching stints in foreign universities.  “I told the minister that since I have to support my aged parents, wife and two children on my earnings I have to travel abroad for my academic activities,” he said.

Inconsistent logic

He said that his letter tells Sushma Swaraj that “she cannot have a partial humanitarian consideration”. He explained, “She has to apply the logic uniformly. More over neither I nor hundreds of youths of my area were ever involved  in looting the country’s economic wealth.”

In an order in 2013, the Supreme Court, while giving a go-ahead for the nuclear plant, directed the Tamil Nadu government to seriously consider the withdrawal of cases against the protestors.  “This was a peaceful struggle and you cannot find a peaceful struggle like this anywhere in the world,” said Poovulugu Sundararajan, who is among the people who have petitioned the Supreme Court against the commissioning of the Koodankulam plant. “But the Tamil Nadu government did not budge. Today, there  are 8,956 sedition cases and over 13,000 cases on waging war against India still pending in the Koodunkulam police station against hundreds of locals”

.For his part, Udayakumar said that he plans to move the Madras High Court to have his travel ban lifted.