Statement on the harassment of Koodankulam’s anti-nuclear activists

Statement drafted by Dr. Romila Thapar and Praful Bidwai on the unleashing of a campaign of vilification of the anti-nuclear plant activists at Koodankulam (Tamil Nadu) and other sites. There are, apparently, fears that a military-style crackdown may be in the offing, with dire implications for democracy and fundamental rights.

This statement will be released to the media and disseminated widely on the Internet. Anyone who would like to add their names to the statement should communicate directly with Praful ([email protected]) by Sunday (4th) night.Please circulate statement to other concerned citizens who may want to sign it.

We are dismayed and pained at the government’s campaign of vilification of the sustained popular movement against the Koodankulam nuclear plant, which has raised vital issues of atomic safety. These issues have assumed pivotal importance worldwide after the Fukushima disaster, the world’s first multiple-reactor meltdown. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has trivialised the movement, and the five months-long relay fast by thousands of people, by attributing it to “the foreign hand”, or Western non-governmental organisations, without citing even remotely credible evidence.This is part of a growing, dangerous, tendency to demonise dissent. If we reduce genuine differences and disagreements with official positions to mere plots of “subversion” by “the foreign hand”, there can be no real engagement with ideas, and no democratic debate through which divergences can be reconciled. Absence of debate on nuclear safety, itself a life-and-death matter, can only impoverish the public discourse and our democracy. The “foreign hand” charge sounds especially bizarre because the government has staked all on installing foreign-origin reactors and tried to dilute the nuclear liability Act under foreign pressure.

The claim that all is well with our expansion-oriented nuclear power programme sounds hollow in the absence of an independent, thorough, transparent review by a broadly representative body, which includes non-Department of Atomic Energy personnel and civil society representatives. Some of us called for this 10 months ago. But the government callously ignored our plea. Its cavalier attitude to nuclear hazards is worrisome given its abysmal and persistent failure to protect Indian citizens’ lives and rights in the Bhopal gas disaster.

We urge the government to cease harassment and persecution of activists of the anti-nuclear movements in Koodankulam and other sites, to drop concocted charges against them, and instead to resume dialogue. Until people’s fears and concerns are allayed, all nuclear power-plant construction must be halted. There must be no use of force—categorically, and regardless of the circumstances. Ramming nuclear plants down the throats of unwilling people will usher in a police state.

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