Earth is flat, nuclear power is safe

Sonam Mittal

Sonam Mittal is a journalist and has been involved in studying the impact of environmental degradation on climate and social life. She works as an activist to fight for a clean and sustainable environment.

She can be reached at

Article Courtesy: Daily Pioneer

How do we recreate humanity when we can sit through the total disregard of human rights in Koodankulam? All that the residents there want is a revisit of the national nuclear policies

Even though recent times have witnessed several scams surfacing in the country, allegations of the presence of ‘foreign hand’, and even the crucial international conference on biodiversity at the recently concluded 11th UN Conference of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity in Hyderabad, the one issue that refuses to die and continues to grab media attention is Koodankulam.

Why? Because the violence at K00dankulam hasn’t stopped. It continues. But for how long will it do so?

Recreating history with Koodankulam

Kudankulam police station will remain etched in Indian history for being the only police station post-colonial rule to register over 55,000 cases for this protest, out of which 7,000 are charges for sedition. Ironically, even children have not been spared; nor people with disabilities. They have all been charged with “waging war against the State”. There are reports of houses being ransacked at odd hours in search of the ‘notorious’ anti-Government ‘rogue’ and the master-mind behind the protests in Kudankulam, SP Udaykumar. Villages wear a deserted look since people are too afraid to stay back in their own homes. They have preferred to camp in at the local church to escape  police atrocities.
Understanding sedition

Mahatma Gandhi once said that he was proud to be charged with sedition. Since the last decade, protesters at Kudankulam have invoked Gandhian methods of protest like satyagraha, hunger strikes and dharnas. These peaceful and non-violent protesters face arrest and oppression from state machinery when they choose to exercise their freedom of speech. Right to peaceful gathering has been abused by the Government, which on the contrary, should be respecting dissent and not thwarting it.

The battle continues

It takes courage to stand up for one’s belief and right to dignified existence. In Kudankulam, people have spent over a decade protesting for their basic rights. But their movement has been labelled ‘anti national’ by the state. All that Kudankulam residents demand is for a revisit of the national nuclear policies. Any logical attempts to make reason are trashed on the grounds of being ‘anti-development’. It seems human rights and ‘development’ issues have a love-hate relationship in today’s governance.

The true cost of development 
Dissent and development are two equal aspects in any democratic country. The bigger question which needs immediate attention is: Development at what cost? And, more importantly, whose development first?

By making innocent children grow up in the shadow of guns, what promises of development are we offering them? If the advancement of the nation is paramount, then what about the development of 70,000 villagers living in the vicinity of the Kudankulam nuclear plant? Or is it that, these 70,000 villagers are not a part of the state’s ‘development package’? If we want India to shine, then how can we push tens of thousands of people to the brink of misery and total destruction?  With many roads and communication channels blocked to hold back the protesters in Kudankulam, education and healthcare services have been affected. A child’s right to education has been snatched away; a woman’s right to peaceful social interaction has been curbed; and a man’s right to earn and sustain his family has been usurped — all in the name of development.

A nuclear accident somewhere is a nuclear accident everywhere, and the fears of the residents are genuine and cannot be dismissed. But that is what the Government has done. Instead of facilitating talks with the protesters and addressing their grievances, the state machinery has gone into an overdrive to convince the people of the advantages of a nuclear power plant in their vicinity.

When this plant goes into operation, the ‘exclusion’ zone around the plant site would be of about two to five kilometre radius. This means many villagers will have to be displaced. The coolant water, which would be discharged at a higher temperature than the sea water, would have a severe impact on the marine ecosystem. Fish catch and production would be hampered. As much as people have the right to 24-hour electricity supply in the State of Tamil Nadu, people in Kudankulam too have a right to fish, just the way their ancestors did.

The question of ‘development at what cost?’ stills looms large. We end up believing what we are made to believe. The atrocities committed in the name of development, the secrecy around disaster management plans and waste disposal policies, just shows that democracy and nuclear power don’t blend. The road to nuclear power is a one-way path — a route which has no exits. There is no turning back for our children, and their children and the generation that follows

Kumi Naidoo, the internationally renowned human rights activist who worked alongside Nelson Mandela during the anti-apartheid movement, once said about activism, “People power is the only legitimate kind of power. It is important that we stand up to the few who would take away our choices and create a future that is right for us and fair to future generations.”

But in the given circumstances how do we make people think? How do we bring about change? How do we recreate humanity? As long as these questioned are not answered, the violence will continue, and so would the apathy.

Because the earth is flat, pigs do fly and nuclear power is safe.

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