PICTURES

Rashmi Kohli | Report from London

Neither the spirit of resistance nor the weather let down the anti-Koodankulam nuclear power plant protest in London (May 18th). All-in-all about 100 people turned up over the three hour long picket, with passer-bys wondering what the hell was going on outside the Indian High Commission. Staff from the High Commission came out to face placards that denounced nuclear India as a ‘fascist India’ and the ‘world’s largest demockery’ based on widely reported legal and human rights abuses in Koodankulam. Next door, BBC World Service personnel came out to talk to the protesters, one of whom twittered news about the picket.

Representatives from the South Asia Solidarity Group, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Globalise Resistance, Foil Vedanta, South West Against Nuclear (SWAN), Kick Nuclear, Campaign against Criminalising Communities (CACC), Stop the War Coalition, Tamil Solidarity and Stop Hinkley came to raise their ire against nuclear oppression in India amongst other countries. Those from Stop Hinkley had their mock hazmat suits and masks as they shared their repugnance against a nuclear power plant being built in Somerset, UK, with those in Koodankulam forced to live next to nuclear reactors: ‘Manmohan Singh, we say: children’s future not for sale. Koodankulam people say: nuclear power, go away’.

Messages of solidarity came from south Indians in Idinthikarai to ‘sisters and brothers in Britain’ which energised the protests. The sentiment was mutual. Following a Hindu report about UK MP’s letter to the Indian Prime Minister and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, others from the village messaged that the Hindu news article was much repeated in the Tamil news. One wrote: ‘when even our local MP’s have disowned us …. the MP’s signature from london is god send …. pls let them know that i thank them with whole heart’.

Anti-nuclear struggle cannot be allowed to be suppressed by arguments about ‘foreign hand’ and anti-nationalism, particularly when it is human, democratic and environmental violations that are at stake. It is through nationalist discourse that divisions are created, effectively ending up serving the interests of the powers-that-be and bulwarking nuclear powers in this nation-state bounded world. The minute a local struggle goes global, authoritarian governments panic and bring out their reactionary nationalist armory.

The picket and letter to the Indian PM and Tamil Nadu CM was reported widely in the Tamil and English language media including the following:
The Hindu
LankaNewspapers.com
The Nation
http://www.deccanherald.com/content/250433/british-mps-write-singh-against.html

The Hindu

Economic Times

After the picket, ideas were discussed to have a bigger protest for a nuclear-free future involving more people including students after their exams. A consensus was also reached that other people should be encouraged to pursue the Koodankulam campaign in countries such as Germany, France, Holland, Japan, Australia and Canada in a genuinely international movement. Dealing with wider publics, politicians and media to add to social media was imperative to raise more awareness and mobilise public opinion on urgent issues that put lives and the environment at risk. This one in London was planned within a week and by only a couple of people at the helm who brought several organisations and politicians on board. In that time, 7 politicians have signed the letter with others pledging to talk to take up the matter with the Foreign Office and one Member of European Parliament preferring to write to Manmohan Singh herself. Following an Amnesty International call for urgent action, Keith Taylor, Greens MEP for South East England, added that he hoped that the south Indian ‘campaigners are not arrested’.

The draconian way in which peaceful anti-nuclear protesters have been charged and imprisoned in Tamil Nadu has horrified people everywhere, and others could not understand how reactors could be commissioned in an earthquake and tsunami zone so soon after Fukushima. Even if Koodankulam reactor technology is new, it remains untested and it won’t be long before it too weather away with time. Petition signatures were collected from these concerned passer-bys.

It was the first time I heard Koodankulam being shouted down the streets of London. And the echoes still resonate.