I am Rishita, 14 years old. I live in the now famed Idinthakarai village touching the shores of the Bay of Bengal in southern Tamil Nadu. What has made this tiny fishing village so famous is its closeness to the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. It would perhaps shock you to know that we live less than 500 metres from the yellow domes about to be commissioned.

I along with my friend, Postine 12 years old have bee traveling together since day before yesterday. Inspite of 144 being declared in our region and heavy police force watching us like criminals, we managed to travel to Chennai on an important mission. We have been to Chennai earlier with 25 of our friends and our aunts Xavieramma, Malar and Melrit. Now Xavieramma is in Trichy Prison. Melrit cannot travel as she would be noticed. Malar auntie is strong and calm.

When we went to Chennai in the last week of August, we meant to meet the CM Of Tamil Nadu and also give letters to the Consulates of different countries with whom India has signed agreements to start nuclear deals. Though we did not get appointments, we did get to speak at a Press Conference organized by friends in Chennai. Now I miss Labisha, Shobhana, Ignesh and others who had such an aura of confidence around them.

On 17th October, 2012 we went to the packed hall in Chennai to present our case before the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) which was holding a Hearing there. We understood that the Panel composed of prestigious people were listening patiently to the various groups of children who were presenting there. I was thinking of what exactly is Child Rights. But after listening to others and being advised about what we should talk, I understood what it meant.

What have we, the children of Idinthakarai been denied as children for the past one year or more is something I pondered about. If it is the right of the child to play and walk free in the area where she was born, then we have been denied that. Since September 10th when the huge Police force attacked our peaceful protest, we have been afraid to play and run about freely. Normally we would stop by the beach on our way back from school and feel the wind and waves.My mother would scold my young brother for reaching home late as he would take the longest route via the beach to reach home! But for over a month, we hardly went to school.And now that we have restarted school, we try to reach the safety of the Samara Pandal or home as fast as we can.

If it is the right of the child to have free access to education and attend schools, then we have been denied that too since September 10th 2012. Earlier in March when the first Police attack on us happened, it was recorded how children had to walk long distances to reach schools and many did not attend exams. This time too, we did not go to schools for over 2 weeks. And when we did it was to write the half-yearly exams. We could hardly study being scared to go back to our homes, unable to locate our text books in our homes some of which were ransacked by Police, staying in the Samara pandal where our parents found refuge. Kishan, our 16 year old brother who was detained in Palayamkottai Juvenile Home has given us a letter that we have handed over in which he has stated how he is unable to write the exam because he has lost attendance and also lost his morale due to the encounter with Police. We understand that the 3 other young boys from Vairavikinar and Koodankulam have also the same experience.

If it is the right of the child to feel secure and happy about her parents and loved ones, then we have been denied that too since a month. How would you explain to 11 year old Shyamili and 7 year old Saheer that their mother Sundari is fine in Trichy prison? Also to the ill but strong 15 year old son of Selvi who is locked up? I have heard many elders wonder what it would be like in the jail, whether they will be treated well and given food and so on. We know that the 4 boys who were in the Juvenile Home have suffered untold physical and mental abuses. We dare not ask them- but their silence speaks a lot. The fears and anxieties of small children whose parents have been taken away by Police can never be gauged. Many of us have seen before our own eyes how Selvi and Xavieramma were dragged away that day. How can we be assured that they are fine- unless you bring them back –in flesh and blood to us!

If it is the right of the child to be with her parents in all their activities whether it is life and death struggle or daily life, then we are on the verge of being denied that now. Now our parents are scared for us. But we do participate in all the activities unmindful of the feeling of insecurity. It is not easy to see your mother, brother or sister being beaten up. If a mother sees her son being attacked, will she not react? If a daughter sees her mother falling as Police throws tear gas at her villagers, will she not rush to her? I remember the scare on Shiji’s face as she saw her mother Inita being injured. I saw how Ritamma ran to her son and got hit by lathi on her nose that day. I can feel the pain of dear Lavinia who with her crippled legs tried to reach her daughter who was trapped in between the Police and the ocean on the beach.Her accounts about the verbal abuses that the law keepers showered on her is enough to scare the young mind of a girl.

If it is the right of the child not to be victims of any kind of abuse- verbal, physical or mental then we have been denied that. The image of 6 year old Robin with his injured nose will stay forever in our minds. The way in which we were hounded that day on the beach cannot be erased from our memory. The memory of the helplessness, fear and desperation we felt that day as we ran to the shelter of the Church is still live. I remember my sense of total desperation till I located my parents and family in the Church that day. Many were able to see their loved ones the next day – some are yet to see as so many men and women have been taken away. The fear that continues in our minds even after that – on each day there is a symbolic act of resistance is strong and overpowering. The death of Sahayam and the cries of his small children, the wails of our mothers as we buried ourselves in the graveyard – all of this pass through our mind scape as we try to sleep each night.

We understand that no amount of deposing and accounts by Fact finding teams will mitigate our fear and insecurity. Can you gauge or measure fear? You have to be in the ghost- township of the usually vibrant CASA colony where there are fights and celebrations always to know the quantum of fear in us. You have to see the white of the eye with pupils dilated of small children when they hear a loud noise even now. We know that time alone can heal. Time and the right decisions by the Government alone will make us go back to our normal lives. We are relieved that the NCPCR listened to us and declared that no child should be the victim of Police repression for political reasons. We are ready to welcome the team that will visit our villages and listen to the voices of many children whom 2 of us are now representing. We demand that the Government and concerned authorities engage in a dialogue with us and assure us about our safety, the safety of our ocean, the livelihoods and life we intend to pursue and the safety of our future. Is it too big a demand? We also like to request that we do not want to be subjected to a Mental Health Check as was proposed long back when NIMHANS team was to visit us and allay our fears. Just tell us that this ill-fated KKNPP will be converted into a full fledged park for Alternate Energy and that we will be able to continue our simple, straightforward hard-working lives. Then our fears will vanish and we will all smile and laugh, play and fight, cry and be naughty, study and sleep like children.

Rishita, Postine, Labisha, Shobana, Melrit, Rishika, Jasmine, Vinitha, Nivetha, Resmila, Abisha, Rosini, Juliya, Shantini, Shyamili, Sathya, Selja, Manjupashini, Lysiska, Jeni ..in Idinthakarai

Prepared by Anitha.S ( [email protected])