– Sadanand Patwardhan
Agitation against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) has intensified just as the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) began the work for loading nuclear fuel into reactors. Those who criticise the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which is spearheading the agitation, have based their arguments either without understanding the concerns of people of the region or to simply vilify the movement and discredit it. National media had to take note now because of the never say die spirit of the peaceful agitators. Yesterday, 11 September, on CNN-IBN debate, Dr. Subramaniam Swamy, said: Maoists and LTTE are leading the agitation, it is foreign funded, KNPP is founded on a solid rock above sea level unlike Fukushima and faces therefore no threat from tsunami, the violent agitators must be *firmly dealt with and calm restored* before their fears and misapprehensions could be addressed, and A P J Abdul Kalam has endorsed that KNPP is safe -QED. In a nutshell he has summarised all that the detractors of the movement have had to say.
Lie #1: Detractors impute to PMANE an ulterior motive of sabotaging the KNPP when it is about go on-stream. They say, why did not PMANE raise the issue earlier?, Why now? and Isn’t this anti-national behaviour when so much money has already been sunk? The fact is that people of the region including S P Udaykumar, leader of PMANE have been opposing the project right from the day it was signed in 1988. Ever since independence, the sovereign Indian State, acting on behalf of *we the people of India*, has behaved as if it knows what is best for the people, and has arrogated the right to acquire any land and natural resources, displace people, destroy their traditional livelihoods, and do all this in the name of growth and development for *greater good*. Almost without exception the people who paid the price for this *growth & development* were the most destitute and marginalized sections of the society like Adivasis, marginal farmers, landless agriculture labourers, small fishermen, and in general poor villagers. Forget participation in the *pie of development*, even the meagre compensation promised to these project affected persons (PAP) did not reach them in time or in full or at all, in case after case. While victims of development have always protested the injustice meted out to them, in the early decades of our nationhood it was seen as necessary sacrifice (by someone else) to be made for the greater good of the country. Over the years however it started becoming clear that while benefits are reaped by one section of the society, the others were made to sacrifice. The inherent dichotomy of this development paradigm has snowballed into a consciousness that has sprouted today many grass-roots level people’s movements across the country.
One of the reasons why the *invisible protest* of 1988 against KNPP has now become so visible and spread wide now.
Lie #2: Evidence cited for LTTE participation in the KNPP protests is the support given to the agitation by some smaller parties from Tamilnadu, who have also supported LTTE in the past. On the other hand, what is ignored is that both mother in law and husband of current Congress President and UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, had funded, trained, and supported Tamil armed resistance groups like TELO, EPRLF, PLOT, EROS and LTTE; and so had Jayalalitha -current Chief Minister of Tamilnadu and Karunanidhi. Since Man Mohan Singh and Jayalalitha are ardent supporters of KNPP and are in power at centre and state, doesn’t now it transpire that LTTE has an hand in KNPP? As far as the other outfit is concerned, not even attempt was made to justify Maoist link, because in the current political discourse it is not needed. Suffice it is to brand anybody Maoist. The onus of proving that one is innocent of Maoists rests with the accused. Less said the better about such *evidence*.
Lie #3: On the issue of foreign funding of the PMANE and others participating in the agitation, even Man Mohan Singh had put his reputation, now in tatters, at stake by picking up the accusation. The whole might of the State at his command, such as Intelligence Bureau- Research & Analysis Wing- Directorate of Enforcement, was made to weigh in on the issue since early this year. But, so far the government has failed to find even a shred of evidence to back its accusation. Yet the fact that a notice was issued under the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) is taken in itself as evidence of some vague wrongdoing, though subsequent investigations by the concerned agencies has yielded nothing to prove the trumpeted charges. There are other dark insinuations too of *foreignness* based on religion. The people in this region are Christians. Some priests in the region too have joined the struggle concerned as they are for the welfare of the people among whom they serve. The opposition to the project is not on religious grounds. It is for the colossal risks it entails and is being driven from a secular platform. The religion of the protesters is incidental. Does their religion make them any less Indian? If yes, then let the Indian state give up its hypocrisy and say so openly. If not, then stop these dark hints. (See the face of *foreign funded* KNPP protesters):
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