20,000 People Start Hunger Strike in Koodankulam, including Children (More updates here)

Before we left Idinithikarai after the Occupy Koodankulam rally of March 15th, we could sense the anxieties yet bravery of village residents against anything that may come their way. They were prepared to fight to their deaths, but all with non-violent means. They are now on a mass indefinite hunger strike. The police have spread rumours that they are now pelting stones at their vans, but this is just to justify violent action against them as we heard from people inside the village.

When we were there, people spoke about how close they are to the reactors, some as little as 700 meters away. How they feared for their health and children’s lives. How their social prospects of marriage would be marred for good. How their staple diet from the sea and land would be contaminated. Nobody has revealed any data from the plant about daily emissions. Everything even if it affects your health becomes a national security issue. Their feelings and words are not allowed out by the state or the mainstream media.

We talked to young school children who feared the reactors, something they had to see every day as they walked out of their doors. But they have become radicalised because of the oppressive and opaque practices of the nuclear authorities and sang with relish, ‘vendam, vendam’ -’we don’t want it, we don’t want it’.

We thought also about our friend in Kutthanguli who just last week gave birth to a baby boy. We wondered how many people would like to have a nuclear reactor in their backyard with small children running around it. Altogether 3 million people live within the danger zone of 30 kilometers. She along with her newborn lived within only 3 kilometers.

The village residents are not anti-development. They have the latest in gadgets, cars and other modcons. They say let us seek alternative and sustainable development which is beneficial for all and cheaper for the country. Ironically it is wind power generators that have mainly powered the nuclear power plant and Anuvijay township for the last decade.

It is not a surprise that for the last six months, there have been deliberate power cuts that have lasted an average of 10 hours per day, an escalation from the usual 2 hours per day that was previously the case. These periodically extenuated power cuts have extended as far as Chennai in the last three months. Power cuts have been systematically operationalised to make people believe that there is an acute power crisis in the state which only a nuclear power plant could fulfill. This is a gross distortion of a heavily subsidised and expensive nuclear industry that Indian citizens are unwittingly funding through increased taxation and inflation which end up funding cost-ineffective projects such as this nuclear power plant. This is a major scandal for which actual figures have been consistently denied by the nuclear authorities. But we can speculate that they are of a scale that could even compare with the 3G scam.

People of India and worldwide need to realise that mainstream media is also part of the problem: it uncritically relays information that is provided to them by the Department for Atomic Energy and other state bodies, and sometimes even actively participates in the state’s propaganda offensive.

It is time to wake up if we want to save this country, its land, its people and its democratic ideals! We no longer live in a colonial era, but it looks like the same practices of the draconian regime continue with a vengeance.