Koodankulam: A Tale of People Confronting The Mighty State

Ali Abbas

Ali Abbas is a student, doing his MA in Social Work from Amity University, Noida.

As a young Indian citizen, he participated in the ‘Occupy Koodankulam’ campaign on March 15th to explore the realities of nuclear policy making and people on the ground.

By the time I was writing this piece, news came in that, there had been crack down on the thousands of peaceful protestors and around 200 were arrested, endangering the democracy of the country. I condemn the act of state government use of force on peaceful concerned citizens to push nuclear power plant.

I have been quite following the issue of Koodankulam nuclear power plant and was always in search of opportunity to visit the place. 11th march on the occasion of candle light vigil at India gate, Delhi, on one year anniversary of Japan’s earthquake, I met P K Sundaram, Nuclear disarmament and peace activist, where we shared our thoughts and planned to reach Koodankulam, Tamilnadu on the “Koodankulam Chalo movement” and started immediately by next available train.

I wanted to go to Koodankulam because, first of all I strongly belief we don’t need risky and destructive option for development specially after what happened last year in Fukushima, and when safe alternatives are available. Secondly to bore witness, as heard the plant is surrounded by beautiful ocean, come back and tell the world what we might lose in case of accident happen in plant. Thirdly and most important to show solidarity and support to those brave and determent people who are fighting for there safety, livelihood and rights. In a way Koodankulam struggle made me remind of movie 300, where small but brave soldiers stood against the might arrogant for there freedom.

Started on 12th march, from Delhi and after crossing seven states and 4 hours journey by road we reached near Koodankulam plant, one can see hundreds of wind mills planted near the nuclear power plant, some one said wind mills are providing are providing energy to plant and some one said some wind mills are not functioning as whoever planted it do not have capacity to collect electricity and transform, what ever may be the fact, but it was spectacular to see wind farm near the nuclear power plant.

Having a glance of power plant from distance of a moving car, we all proceeded, all the way to meeting point. Every shop was closed in participation of anti KKNPP, and only 12.45 we could reach the venue, which was organised at Idinthakarai, pandalas were laid in front of church, which was attended by over whelming crowd of young, old, farmers, fishermen to small shopkeepers. It was about 5000 people. As I entered the pandal I saw there leader SP Udaykumar surrounded by the activist who came from different states and local men, as read bout him a simple men with strong vision and determination. With a smile and open arm he welcomed every one. Speech after speech was followed one can usually see the excited crowd, clapping, laughing and shouting in joy. Most speakers talked about Nuclear safety, National and International politics on Nuclear and gimmick being played by government to protest and few talked about alternatives to Nuclear and problems of waste disposal.
Personally I salute this determinant people, inspite of all sorts of games played by the government by trying to divide them on communal lines, accusing of being foreign funded and placing thousands of police men surrounding them, they stood firm on there legitimate rights. It is quite often seen in India that government fallows British legacy of divide and rule policy on communal ground.

When Justice Patil from Maharashtra was addressing the crowd, said don’t worry about jail and bullets its is few who will be killed but if we don’t take that risk generations will suffer from it, my eye went over a lady of age about 70, pretty old and saw her smiling, I just wondered it this the people who may face jail or possible bullet, but what for because she is struggling for her rights in a peaceful way, what a irony and shame it would be, that voices are being made silent by weapons of the state.

Later in the evening a march of about 3 km was organized in protest against of ex chief minister Karunanidhi,s statement who accused people of Koodankulam, receiving 5 crore per day to continue protest, once more accusation, march was attended by all and concluded with the speech of people’s leader S.P Udaykumar who spoke very firmly.

Only in the late evening I got the chance to go near the beach side, beauty is beyond words, and as the place is just 25km from Kanyakumari it was the end point of the country. Saw beautiful fishing boats parked on the beach side and yes also saw the monster plant, in case any thing goes wrong, entire fishermen community will have to lose there livelihood and the country has to lose one of its beautiful beach, what a human tragedy it would be to lose such a beautiful ocean to radiation for 100 of years. That night we rested by the beach side admiring countless wave from the ocean.

Next day was the departure time for me and few other activist who were going to Chennai for press conference, all of us started together by afternoon, on the way we stopped at one of the village to have a talk with locals, who were school teachers and few other local men and women, interaction was as usual held in Tamil for an hour, women talked about how government has sent them a electricity bill of 5000 to 10000, to put pressure and convince electricity shortage, when few women visited kalpakkam nuclear plant were arrested in the middle and only 20 people for the village got the job in the plant. But there were three questions to which group of women replied all at a time was, tomorrow Jaylalitha says plant is safe will you all agree, all said at a time no to nuclear plant at any cost. Next question we asked that government accused your campaign of being foreign funded they all replied “ why do we need funds for when ever there is a protest organized we walk for 10 to 15 km and usually fast through out the day if a vehicle is arranged diver only charge for diesel so there require no money as such. Government perhaps mistaken them that of political campaign or NPCIL who is trying to bribe locals promising if plant comes up NPCIL will develop the area by investing 200 crores. Third was when we asked them is it a church inspired campaign, women replied all those who are sitting here are Hindus and we are united irrespective of any cast. With this short meeting we moved ahead to Nagalcoil about an hour from Koodankulam.

In Nagarcoil we met with the wife of SP UdayKumar, it was a very short conversation with her, she talked about all sort of harassment being faced by the family of Uday Kumar, living under constant threat of arrest or possible attack on his life. Most recently few goons damaged the boundry wall of house in Nagarcoil. She runs a school with about 200 children, anonymous letter threatening her to close school and run it in Germany, she is often blamed for power shortage in small town. Never the less she is filled with hope in her husband and people’s movement. We are hopefully too with these words I departed from Tamilnadu to catch a train from Trivandrum.
It seems we Indians are providing business to American nuclear Industry since in US from the last 30 years no new nuclear power plant have been placed due to high cost and public pressure, Nuclear energy comes with all sort of issues, like issue of safety, security, disposal, environmental damage, risks to livelihood so it cannot be solution for our energy needs. I see two historic opportunity one with Jayalalitha by scrapping Koodankulam plant and listen to people’s voice and with India to stop its nuclear investment and become leader in renewable energy and look forward for sustainable growth.

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