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Q&A with anti-nuclear activist and convenor of PMANE

Gireesh Babu  |  Chennai   June 14, 2014 Last Updated at 19:26 IST

S P Udayakumar, anti-nuclear activist and convenor of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), has been at the forefront of protests against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant as well as the nuclear power policy of the government. A report filed by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to the Prime Minister’s Office allegedly says Udayakumar has “deep and growing connections with US and German entities” and has an unsolicited contract with Ohio State University Institute, US, to submit “fortnightly reports” for a financial consideration.

Are you receiving any foreign funding and what are the sources of funding for the operations of your movement?
The movement, as I have said umpteen number of times, is funded by the local people and by contributions from the neighbouring villagers and college and school students. We absolutely have not received even a rupee from any Indian or international organisation for our struggle.

You are saying that the leakage of the IB report which named you as a receiver of huge foreign funds is a conspiracy.
In general, authorities in India do not want anyone to pose problems in their proposed development projects and if anyone decides to stand up and speak for the poor people, they want to discredit them by saying that they are working for foreign countries. The government has every mechanism to go into the villages and find out for itself if we are giving any money or other incentives to people to join the protests. The media too have not gone to the villages to find out whether Udayakumar is paying the people to join the struggle. The whole thing is orchestrated by the authorities. Authorities include the state government, central government and the officialdom. I would also include the media.

How do you see the government and its policy? You earlier said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi seemed to prefer renewable energy rather than nuclear power.
If Modi cares for the people of India, and if he thinks that Indian lives have value, he should go for renewable energy because all over the world, countries are shunning nuclear power and going for the renewable energy sources.

Do you think that the the IB report has been “leaked” on the instigation of foreign powers?
It could well be because we are not fighting against just the state government and the central government.  We are fighting against the global nuclear industry. Americans, Russians and the French – they are all out there to get us. For them, it is a multi-billion business. They don’t want a few individuals and groups like us damage the prospects.

What do you think of the timing of this alleged “leakage” of the report?
We heard that the Modi government would put the nuclear issue on the backburner. It may be that IB is doing it to undermine the government programme or to promote foreign interests by leaking the report and embarrassing the Indian government. Or perhaps the Modi government itself has leaked this report to gauge public opinion and then decide on its nuclear programme. I have no idea who is doing what, but they are certainly out there to discredit the people of India and those of us who are speaking out.

You also said that there is a threat to your life. You are known for being against the establishment.  What new threat is there now?
This is a report filed by the topmost intelligence agency in the country. When it names me by name, and with so called documentary and substantiating evidence, it is a direct accusation. And when I walk on the street with my wife and children, who knows who will come and attack me. I am rendered vulnerable here. I have been judged without even being tried.

What kind of impact will this report have on your movement?
Absolutely no impact. I am an avowed nuclear activist and I think that a highly and densely populated country like India cannot afford foreign nuclear power projects and it is not in the best interest of our ordinary citizen and I will continue to oppose this.


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