Part II of this diary can be accessed HERE.

(Admiral L. Ramdas and Lalita Ramdas are on a visit to Koodankulam in support of the ongoing struggle against the nuclear power project. We are publishing below the first part of their diary from Koodankulam. We are really grateful to Lalita Ramdas for sending us pictures from Idinthakarai)

Our decision to make the long trek to the deep south to show our solidarity and also to get a first hand sense of the three month long agitation going in the little fishing town /village of Idinthakarai, brought us some unintended benefits which we shall long remember………And we speak now of the 42 hour long but beautiful journey from Delhi to T Puram on the Rajdhani Express. Talk of GREAT TRAIN JOURNEYS – this must surely feature high on the list?

Admiral (Retd.) Laxminarayan Ramdas with Lalita Ramdas

Admiral L Ramdas served as Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian navy taking the reins on November 30, 1990. Vir Chakra, Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Admiral Ramdas was warded Vishisht Seva Medal and the Vishisht Seva Medal during his time in the Indian Navy.

In 2004, he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Awards for peace for his efforts in trying to demilitarise and denuclearize South Asia. Admiral Ramdas is a leading voice of the growing people’s resistance against nuclear energy projects in India.

Lalita Ramdas has been an educator and activist with a broad and varied experience spanning a professional life.

She has been involved into examining national and global economic, social and ecological trends and developments within a human rights framework – especially looking at the connectivities with gender, minority and indigenous communities and policy formation. Lalita Ramdas is a national co-ordination committee member of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace.

Admiral Ramdas and Lalita Ramdas can be contacted at:
LARA – Ramu Farm
Bhaimala Gaon – PO Kamarle
Alibag 402209 – Raigad Dist
Maharashtra- India

We passed through many regions – from the brown and the barren, to the greenest parts of our country. The journey took us through the states of Haryana, MP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, and finally to Tiruvananthapuram in Kerala. And we were mute witness to the unspeakable predatory destruction of mother nature almost right throughout the journey by way of quarrying, mining and pollution.

Arrived T Puram at 0500 – After a quick wash and change, we hit the road again for the four hour drive to the now famous (notorious?) Koodankulam Nuclear power plant, situated in Tamil Nadu, at a location only 14 kms from Kanya Kumari, on the southern tip of the peninsula.

As we neared Koodankulam, we passed large numbers of windmills – and we felt good that T Nadu was also adding wind energy to its energy mix. We later discovered that the windmills are switched off for several hours a day in order to ensure that orders for coal at thermal coal power plants are not affected! Agitated local residents with whom we inter acted during the evening meeting (held during the daily two hour power cut ) told us this, also corroborated by several other locals.

It was noteworthy that every person we asked for directions in the last 15 to 20 kms before reaching our destination, knew the name of Idinthakarai, and waved us on with a smile (even though they often mixed up left and right!)

We passed the Anu Vijay townships I and II, where all the staff of the KKNPP are housed – located a safe distance away from the actual plant, with plenty of security stationed at different points.

And after negotiating a 2 to 3 km stretch of barren road, passing a number of women and girls wending their way on foot , we saw the soaring spires of the 107 years old cathedral of Irindathakarai………a beacon which no one can miss, together with the sound of speeches and songs over the loudspeakers.

The spectacle that greeted us was impressive – at least a couple of thousand people sitting under large thatched roofs , built from local materials by the locals, to hold and shield at least 15000 or more people from the elements. This year Dec 6 was being celebrated as Communal Harmony Day – because it was not only Ambedkar Jayanthi ( birthday), and the holy festival of Muharram, but the Anniversary of the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992.

MOST SIGNIFICANTLY IT WAS DAY 113 OF THIS DEMONSTRATION OF UNITY AND PEACEFUL, NON- VIOLENT CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE BY THE CITIZENS OF THE REGION MOST LIKELY TO BE AFFECTED BY THE OPERATIONALISATION OF THE NUCLEAR POWER PLANT CONSTRUCTED BY RUSSIA.

Our arrival caused a brief interruption in the programmed of tributes to Ambedkar, to the vision of a caste free India, as also to celebrate our unity in diversity of people of all faiths and economic backgrounds as being Indians first and Indians last. And the growing crowds, (80% of whom were women) sat in near pin drop silence as they listened to songs, poems, speeches interspersed of course with slogans in which we all joined lustily!

When it came to our turn, we spoke of our own backgrounds, explained why we were there and where we came from; especially the fact that we too lived not to far from yet another proposed massive nuclear project at – Jaitapur ; and how important it was to link with others across the country who shared similar problems and concerns and a shared vision of a non-nuclear energy future.

One cannot but be struck by the participation of such an overwhelming number of women. And in the next bulletin we will speak more of the role of women, and how they have been motivated to come out of their homes for over three months now.

The formal fasting ended with a Peace and Harmony March right through the little fishing town by a crowd of nearly three thousand of us – and the accompanying video shows graphically the turn out of women, girls and children ….”….

A large number if Muslim women joined us in the afternoon and the formal gathering came to a close with an address by the local Imam, reinforcing the same message- VENDAAM(we don’t want), VENDAAM, Anu Ulai (Nuclear Power) VENDAAM.

Our overwhelming first hand impression was that all the efforts of the central government to reassure the public about the 100% safety of nuclear power, including the visit by the former President of India, Dr Abdul KALAM, has failed to make any impression on the local people. They are continuing their struggle with greater zest than ever before . Today, DEC 6, not only marked day 113 of the overall agitation but day 50 of an unprecedented relay fast where participating villages took it in turns to bring their work ( like rolling beedies!), their babies, etc and sit in solidarity from 10am to 5pm.

We heard endless accounts of how the 23 year old struggle of the people protesting the building of the plant, entered a new and agitational phase of protest directly caused by the decision of the authorities at KKNPP to do a trial run – described graphically by 65 year old Celine in front of the gathered assembly. And it was this unearthly noise and howling of Machinery for a prolonged period of time, together with the lessons of Fukushima and their own tsunami from the victims rehabilitated barely 2kms away from the plant, that convinced t hem to fight to the finish.

This is Part I of our story- we will bring you some insightful first person accounts of a number of aspects of the significance of this extraordinary symbol of peaceful, democratic resistance which has few parallels in recent times.

More to come, stay with us!!

Lalita and Ramu Ramdas
Idinthakarai, Koodankulam, Tiruvananthapuram)

 

 

 

Uday Kumar -Whom the people credit with incredible leadership

the sea was blue when we visited 4 years ago

Women formed 80% of those who were there on day 113 of the Fast