The protest against the Koodankulam nuclear plant is one of the longest peaceful movements in the history of India after the Gandhian movement. Even among the many anti-nuclear movements globally, the Koodankulam protests are seen as the best example of non-violent agitation.
Globally, it is recognized as the best and most sustained yet peaceful movement. It is to the credit of the leaders and the villagers that they have not succumbed to provocation and often outright brutality by the police.
In all my days here, I have not met a single person here who has considered violence in any form. The protesters are willing to sacrifice their life since they feel that the nuclear power plant will result in their death anyway. I sincerely urge readers to sign the petition to put pressure on the government to address the people's concerns in a democratic manner and also respect their right to protest peacefully.
One of the villagers Leon, who is also my translator, insisted that I visit the Tsunami colony to witness the police atrocities. This area is a 15 minute walk from Idinthakarai but we set off early nonetheless. The Tsunami colony was built in 2006 to rehabilitate the victims of the devastating Tsunami that struck in December 2004. The colony with 450 houses has an approximate population of 1,500 and most of the people are engaged in fishing and other small businesses like transportation of water or running small shops.
The area lies just half-a-km from the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant, in fact the last house of the village is just 500 meters away and one can clearly see the boundary of the plant. The government policy itself states that reactors should not be built in areas with population centres greater than 10,000 in 15 km radius and Koodankulam has more than 25 lakh people in 30 km radius , according to local people.
To add to their woes, on September 10 they had a very distressing experience. When everybody was out participating in Jal Satyagrah on the beach the police entered the colony and ransacked some of the houses in the village and stole some articles including ornaments.
Uttiya Gnanapraksam, mother of four children said she was out participating in the agitation when someone informed her that her house was being ransacked. Shocked, she came running back but could not enter the village because of the presence of the police. She was terrified and reported the incident to the agitation committee. As I was talking with her another woman, Vasantha, came running. She is the 64 year old widow of Sailvai Anthony. She informed us that her ration card was taken away by the police. A few more women gathered around us and said their switch wires, switch boards and windows were also damaged.
Yogesh, a father of two, said his house was also ransacked. He showed us his broken T.V and accused the police of stealing four rings and Rs 4,800 cash. Bruno Leon a driver by profession who supplies water said that his Tata Ace and Suzuki bike was taken away by the police. T Raj, owner of the canter who also supplies water, showed us his damaged canter and said that he had just paid its first instalment.
A house ransacked by the police.
The people in the village are very terrified of the police. In fact, Leon took me to the village early in the morning fearing that at any time the police could come and arrest him probably with another sedition charge. Over time the police atrocities have increased so much that in almost every interview with the media SP Udaykumar urges the authorities not to put such pressure on the people as they are also very much Indian citizens and their protest to protect their life and livelihood is legitimate. The fact finding team headed by Justice Patil is here in the area and are investigating into matters of police atrocities and will soon come up with their findings.
It is certainly a matter of shame that the police and authorities who are supposed to safeguard the rights of the people and keep them safe are engaged in such shameful acts. Hopefully the truth will be exposed by the fact finding team. But whatever it may be, the people have lost their trust in the police and the authorities.
Ali Abbas is covering the ground realities of the anti-nuclear protests in Koodankulam. All images have been taken by Ali Abbas.