is a strange contradiction. At the one hand it provide us the legitimate
government even if it is elected on minority votes and the other side it is
used displace people who do not matter much for the state in the name of
‘national interest’. Any protest against such ‘national interest’ is brutally
suppressed. That apart, the governments are using media and other social
networks to malign such movements where people have stood up against a certain
project which the government consider absolutely important for the growth the
As a nation which need growth and
development too but at what cost. Our policy makers also need to listen to
people’s voices and understand what they are demanding. Why the peaceful
protests are turning violent? The fact of the matter is that Indian state has
rarely listened to democratic voices. It only wakes up when the peaceful
protest turned violent as the state try to not only bulldoze them but
completely destroy them.
protest against Nuclear Power Plant in Koodankulan has been building up for
years but there was no attempt by the authorities to understand them. But
government only woke up when over ten thousand villagers including school going
children and old people protested peacefully on the project site. For days, the
government authorities could not go inside the project area and government
feared any police action would widely damage its international image. Hence it
used all its tricks to foil the movement. It tried to divide the people on one
hand and the other side carefully orchestrated a campaign in the media that the
entire anti nuclear projects are American Funded. In fact, it was shocking to
see the Prime Minister of India jumping in the entire exercise and blaming the
US donor agencies for spreading campaign against the Koodankulan Nuclear Power
Plant. It would have been better for the prime minister to lodge a protest to
the US government if such a thing has happened. Unfortunately, the government
did not do so.
Now, the authorities in Tamilnadu are
working on various fronts to foil the movement and defame it. The state
government has filed criminal cases against the leaders of the movement and
hundreds others. Movement leaders have been asked to surrender their passport.
Dr S.P.Udayakumar who was teaching at Minnesota in the United States and
returned to India in around 2000 is facing persecution by the authorities.
Udaya is a strong voice against communalism and nuclearisation process. He
could have stayed in the US with his lucrative job but came back to India and
settled in Nagarcoil at his parents place.
He started school for children as well as provided coaching for civil
services to numerous students. His parents have been threatened with dire
consequences and his movement is being monitored by the state intelligence.
in the Koodankulan Nuclear Power Plant area have been opposing the said project
for years. They knew that it will damage their livelihood and ecology. The
beautiful coastal line in the entire region is damaged. The fisher folk are facing complete threat to their lives as their fish
catch is completely reduced and fishing has become life threatening due to the
building of nuclear power plant. They have to go for deep sea fishing now which
push them to unknown territory including crossing over to Sri Lankan territory.
The repercussions are very high as they are caught in the inter country
disputes and face punishment for the same. The Sri Lankan activists,
however, blame Indian fishermen for fishing against the international norms
which has resulted in loss of sea produce in India now therefore compelling
them to cross over to Sri Lankan side which would definitely not be acceptable
to that country.
my visit to the region along with the movement leader Dr S.P.Udayakumar, I
asked many fisher folks as why are they opposing this ‘nuclear plant’ which is
of great ‘national importance’ of us.
They laughed at me and said how many of our political leaders are ready
to ‘die’ for the ‘nation’. Why should the ‘national interest’ mean snatching
livelihood of tribal, fisher folks and Dalits. How can you serve any ‘national
interest’ by killing your own people and destroying the beautiful coastal belt
The fact is that we are heading for an
ecological disaster. This region faced the worst crisis during the Tsunami
along with Sri Lanka. Obviously, after the Fukishama disaster, a new debate has
started internationally about the nuclear safety. Memories of Chernobyl disaster in Russia and
Fukishama nuclear plant in Japan are alive in our heart. Indians have not
forgotten the Bhopal Gas disaster in 1984 which may not be called a nuclear
disaster but can be included in the similar category. In the Koodankulan area,
the sand mafia has been operating against the people. Many of these places were
out of bound for local people.
issue is whether Koodankulan’s peaceful stir against nuclear power plant
pricked the conscience of the nation? It does not seem to have done so. The
problem with the Indian people is that there is a rat race here, a herd
mentality. It takes long for people to understand. Their minds do not really
work independently. For those living in their ‘glass houses’, far away from
these projected sites, the protest is against our ‘national interest’. They
would not feel why the government does not speak to them. Why have the children
come to the street? Why do the authorities always come with the idea of
‘foreign’ interference? Does government think that such a big movement can be
purchased by the Americans or Europeans that easily? If that is so then what is
the government doing? If money can buy everything can’t our governments do the
same? Why don’t they listen to people or even ‘purchase’ them as they might
have lot of middlemen in the region. The government however will not say why
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State is meeting the State Chief Ministers
and talking about investment? Is not that a violation of our federal structure?
Is not an interference with the internal matter of India when she goes to meet
Jaya and Mamata in their respective states without informing the centre about
Such innuendos are insulting for the people
who are fighting to live a dignified life. A nationalist would never allow his
environment, his rivers, his coast, forest and water resources to die. A nation
is not just a geographical entity. It cannot be a nation if there are no
people. No nation can be happy if its people are unhappy. And a nation is not
just its power elite. Indian nation is build by its farmers, workers, fisher
folks, tribal, Dalits and many more working masses. You cannot build it by destroying
their livelihood and denigrating their protest. It is time we realize that
‘national interest’ cannot be bigger than the ‘people’s interest’. The
government must listen to people’s voices for their rights and act accordingly.
(The writer is a full time human rights activist)