From the Co-Editor

Hundreds of people from Chutka and surrounding villages assembled at the district headquarters in Mandla to raise their voice against the upcoming nuclear power project in their area. Through a massive rally and ‘chetavani sabha’ (warning/cautioning meeting), the people of the region, a majority of whom belong to the Gond adivasi community, sent a clear message to the Central and State Governments, through the local administration – that they do not want the nuclear plant which threatens their safety and livelihood, destroys the fragile ecology, and ruthlessly uproots them. The indignation felt by the protestors at the callousness of the administration that uprooted them first for the Bargi Dam in the 1990s, and is now doing it all over again for the nuclear power plant, was palpable.

This huge gathering was attended by eminent activists from across India including, Medha Patkar, Prafull Samatray, Aradhana Bhargava and Rajkumar Sinha. Ms Patekar recalled the long and glorious battle that the people of the region fought in the early 1990s when the Bargi dam had displaced them. She said that the adivasi land and lives have no value for the policy makers and governments obsessed with a neo-liberal, growth-centric model of development that is destroying fragile ecologies and traditional sources of livelihood.

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Dadulal Kudape, the adivasi leader and head of the Chutka Anti-Nuclear Struggle Committee gave a call to the people to be prepared for a resolute struggle ahead, as the adivasi communities have been left with no option, but to fight the calculated destruction that is being inflicted upon them by the central and state governments.

The gathering marked the culmination of the two month-long intensive anti-nuclear campaign that began on 2nd October on Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary. While the campaign and the meeting yesterday, were entirely peaceful, it did not stop the state government from deploying heavily armed state police not only at the venue of the meeting, but also across the city and the District Collector’s Office – which was in keeping with the government’s consistent attempts to intimidate and discredit the protestors and their peaceful campaign.

Speaking to DiaNuke.org, key local activist and organiser, Rajkumar Sinha said that the struggle has been going on ever since the project was announced in 2010, but this rally and the campaign leading up to it, had to be organised to break the atmosphere of intimidation and suspicion that had set in after the government announced compulsory land acquisition earlier this year.

Huge sums of money were forcibly credited to the bank accounts of villagers in return for their land for which they never gave consent. Many villagers have not taken the money and assert that their losses cannot be compensated through money. The public hearing for the project was opposed vehemently by the local communities. And after the successive cancelation of two such farcical hearings, the government sent in thousands of police and para-military personnel to forcibly conduct the public hearing at gun point.

At yesterday’s rally, a unanimous resolution was passed against the proposed nuclear project and handed over to the local administration by Medha Patkar and other leaders on behalf of the people of Chutka and other villages.

The international statement/appeal, expressing solidarity with the Chutka movement, launched by DiaNuke.org and signed by several key activists and intellectuals from Japan, Germany, US, France, UK, Australia, India, and Netherlands was also read out on the occasion. This includes eminent Indian activists and intellectuals such as Prof. Achin Vanaik, Admiral L. Ramdas, Dr. EAS Sarma, S P Udayakumar, Vivek Sundara, Soumya Dutta, Rohini Hensman, Jyothi Krishnan, Sundar Rajan and PT George, as well as representatives of international organisations like Tokyo-based Citizens Nuclear Information Centre, WISE International, No Nukes Asia Forum Japan, Osaka-based Civil Action Against ODA and Export of Nuclear Technologies, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Burger Initiative, Beyond Nuclear, Reseau Sortir Du Nuclaire, Anti-Nuclear Alliance of Western Australia, Nukleersiz Turkey and Friends of Earth. International academics like Prof. Dennis Riches, Prof. Ann-Elise Lewallen, Prof. Fukunaga Masaaki and Prof. Paul Dorfman and  also signed the solidarity appeal.A Hindi version of the solidarity statement may be seen here. An English version of the statement may be viewed here.