PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES- TAMIL NADU AND PUDUCHERRY

Hussaina Manzil, III Floor, 255 (old No. 123) Angappa Naicken Street, Chennai 600 001.
Phone: 91-44- 25352459 / 42621386  
President: Dr. V. Suresh                                        General Secretary: S. Balamurugan
94442-31497                                                                                                   94432-13501
                                                                                                    
21.3.2012
 
To
1.      The Chief Secretary,
            Government of Tamil Nadu,
            Fort St. George, Chennai 600009.
 
2.      The Director General of Police,
            Rajaji Salai, Chennai 600004.
 
3.      The Principal Secretary, Home,
Government of Tamil Nadu,
Fort St. George, Chennai 600009
 
4.      District Collector,
            Tirunelveli District,
Tirunelveli.
 
5.      Superintendent of Police,
Tirunelveli District, Tirunelveli.
 
6.      Commanding Officer,
Indian Coast Guard, Tamil Nadu,
Chennai
           
 
            Sub.:   Blockade enforced by TN Police and District Administration
of Idinthakrai and Koodankulam Villages, Tirunelveli District from 18th March, 2012; Total prohibition of movement of Citizens, stoppage of essential supplies resulting in humanitarian crisis –
Demand  Resumption of Essential Supplies  permitting free movement of citizens, withdrawal of police force and return to normalcy – regarding.
 
Dear Sirs / Madam,
 
            We bring to your attention the total breakdown of rule of law and constitutional scheme in the villages of Idinthakarai, Koodankulam and neighbouring villages of Radhapuram Taluka pursuant to unprecedented and unprovoked action of Tamil Nadu Government moving in more than 5,000 armed policemen into the area from 18th March, 2012 onwards.
 
            We are constrained to point out that today’s newspaper reports highlight that the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant  (KNPP) has started functioning and there is no obstacle or obstruction to the free entry and exit of employees, engineers and specialists into the plant.
 
While so, it is strange as to why Idinthakarai village, which is 4 km away from the KNPP, where the villagers have been peacefully protesting for the last several months, is completely sealed by armed police. We learn that Police checkpoints have been placed at all entry points to the village restricting movement of local people creating huge fear psychosis. It should be noted that currently there are more than 25,000 people in Idinthakarai village.
 
In fact, PUCL is greatly concerned that using the ruse of people’s agitation the police have promulgated orders u/s 144 Cr.P.C. restricting the movement of people in the entire area of Radhapuram taluka. We fail to understand the rationale and legitimacy of such a prohibitory order when the agitation of the local villagers has been in an area 4-5 km away from the KNPP site and has been totally non-violent and Gandhian in character.
 
PUCL is concerned with the reports pouring in that all essential supplies such as drinking water, milk, vegetables, provisions and medical supplies have been stopped as a result of the police blockade. Drinking water is supplied to Idinthakarai through tanker lorries as well as through pipelines from Vijayapathi, Thomas Mandapam and Koodankulam. We are informed that the police and district administration have prevented the supply of drinking water through these pipelines and have stopped movement of tanker lorries. We reliably learn that the Pump Operator responsible for supply of drinking water through the OHT has been forced by the police to part with the key to the water pumping room. Thus the police in effect, are in control of the pump room and are ensuring that no water is supplied to the village.  This is a totally unwarranted and illegal action on the part of the State Police and administration.
 
We are informed that the ground water in the area is completely saline and generally unfit for human consumption. Because of the total stoppage of water supply the people, including women, children, elderly and those who are ill are forced to drink unpotable saline ground water resulting in further health problems. Even this supply has been blocked due to deliberate cutting off of electricity to the village thereby preventing the people from operating their water pumps.
 
It is pertinent to point here that the last few weeks have seen a very hot sun and the heat has been unbearable. When some fishermen sought to bring in water for the Idinthakarai villagers by boats the Indian Coast Guard blocked the boats and prevented the transport of water to Idinthakarai village.  
 
This is most condemnable. We wish to point out it is a well recognised principle of human rights law and humanitarian laws, as also the Geneva Conventions, that even during times of armed conflict or war, supplies of essential commodities like water, medicines and food should not be prevented.
 
Vegetables and provisions are also in short supply as all supply lines have been choked due to the police blockade. We understand that even milk supply has been obstructed by the police who are stationed in large number on all the main entry points to the village.
 
We are deeply disturbed by the information that school children who are currently appearing for their Higher Secondary Board exams have been prevented from going to school for no fault of theirs. The Bishop Roche Higher Secondary School located in Idinthakarai has children from surrounding villages studying in the school. Currently the 12th Std. Board exams are going on. The Idinthakarai children are appearing for the exams under these very strained circumstances where they do not even have adequate food to eat and clean water to drink.  Unfortunately more than 25 children from neighbouring villages are being prevented from attending school and sitting for the exams because of the police blockade and obstruction.
 
Students from Idinthakarai studying in colleges outside Idinthakarai are also unable to attend college because of the blockade. A couple of students who were going to college were picked up by the police and detained for a whole day. This has caused tremendous fear amongst students who are now scared to venture out of their homes.  It is pertinent to point out that the end semester exams are due very shortly and the police action has seriously affected their academic thereby affecting their future.
 
            The only decent medical facility available in Idinthakarai is a 10-bed hospital, the Lourdes Hospital. There is no water and power supply to the hospital. The doctors and staff are providing medical aid to the local population under very trying circumstances by making do with available medical supplies which are fast depleting. This is causing a serious health crisis. 
 
We are informed that a pregnant woman, by name Vennila d/o Savarimuthu, aged 29 years from Idinthakarai, developed labour pain at about 8.30 pm yesterday, 20th march, 2012. The closest hospital with adequate medical facilities is in Thisayanvilai village, about 20 km away from Idinthakarai. When her family members sought to take her to the Thisayanvilai hospital they were prevented by the police from leaving Idinthakarai. We learn that it was only due to the intervention of local media people that the police eventually permitted her to be taken to the Hospital;  but this was after a harrowing delay of more than 1 hour. 
 
            We are very concerned that the police since this morning have been preventing the entry of local media into the area, thereby creating a situation where strong arm tactics of the police against peacefully protesting villagers, can be effectuated without oversight by the media. Considering the armed build up and the aggressive actions of the Tamil Nadu Government and police, we have grave fears for the personal safety and lives of the local villagers, and in particular, those locals who have been leading the non-violent and democratic campaign against the nuclear power plant. It is very unfortunate that the State Government is treating its own citizens as criminals and their villages as a war affected disturbed zone requiring war time strategy of `cordon-clear-crush’.
 
            PUCL also wants to point out that when a group of lawyers sought to visit Idinthakrai to get instructions for moving bail applications in respect of 47 women who were arrested and remanded to judicial custody they were denied entry by the police. This amounts to denying even access to courts and legal redress to the people of Idinthakarai and other villages.
 
            The proclamation under sec. 144 Cr.P.C. issued in respect of the entire Radhapuram Taluka, Tirunelveli District is an abuse of the powers granted u/s 144 Cr.P.C. It is pertinent to point out that the powers u/s 144 Cr.P.C. can be invoked only for the purpose of immediate prevention of nuisance or injury to any person lawfully employed or danger to human life, health or safety or a disturbance of public tranquillity or riot or affray.  We reliably learn that no notice has been given to the persons against whom the order has been directed.
 
The situation in Radhapuram Taluka does not satisfy the requirements for promulgation of the said order u/s 144 Cr.P.C. There have been peaceful protests for more than 6 months and there is no threat or danger to any human life, health or safety nor is there any disturbance of public tranquillity or fear of riot or affray. Hence the situation in Idinthakarai and Koodankulam villages in particular, and in Radhapuram Taluka in general, can hardly be termed an emergency warranting an order u/s 144 Cr.P.C.
 
In fact it is the proclamation orders u/s 144 Cr.P.C. and the consequential police and state action of barricading the village if Iddinthikarai which has disturbed public tranquillity and is causing threat to human life, health and safety. 
 
            PUCL states that this action of the Police and the State Government is a violation of the fundamental rights of the people of Idinthakarai guaranteed under Articles 14, 19, 21 and 22(1) of the Indian Constitution.
 
1.      On behalf of the PUCL, we request you to immediately restore the supply of all essential services including supply of drinking water, milk, vegetables and provisions, medical supplies and power supply.
 
2.      PUCL also requests that the police blockades of Idinthakarai should be lifted immediately and the free movement of the people in Idinthakarai should not in any way be restricted or denied.
 
3.      We request that the people of Idinthakarai and other villages in Radhapuram taluk are permitted access to lawyers and access to legal redress.
 
4.      PUCL also requests that the media be freely allowed to enter the area and meet the people so as to independently report about events to ensure transparency and accountability and at as a check on police and state excesses.
 
5.      PUCL also requests you to immediately revoke the orders issued u/s 144 Cr.P.C. and thereby restore normalcy.
 
            Yours sincerely,
 
                                                                                   
                                                                                    (V. Suresh)
                                                                        President, PUCL – TN/Puduvai
 
PS: The signed copy of this representation is sent as soft copy through email and the hard copy is being sent by post.