September 25, 2012
Today, rather than sleeping in the parish house I decided to sleep with protestors under the pandal. The young men sleep around the border of the pandal to protect the women and children in case there is an attack by the police in the night.
I was about to sleep when an elderly women came and offered me a chattai and also insisted that I take a pillow. I refused to take the pillow but accepted the chattai.
People here are very humble, the first thing they ask you after a greeting is if you have had food or sapad while pointing towards the stomach. The auto driver, who was initially scared to drop me to Idinthakarai, is now more comfortable coming here.
Hundreds of people spend the night under the pandal. Mothers feed their children and make cradles out of their saris to comfort them. Seeing me taking pictures of these innocent moments, kids gathered around me.
Initially they were shy but within no time they mingled freely and started playing with me. Media and cameras are not new to them anymore. They were happy to pose for the camera and quite comfortable too.
These children want to play and go to school. They asked me many questions but I hardly understood their language. Every now and then groups of kids came towards me, looked at my camera and laughed innocently after seeing their picture. Most of them wanted to know my whereabouts. They knew Delhi, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi.
I woke up at 5:30 am with voices all around me and saw that the people were already up and packing their chattais. A group of seven boys aged between 7-14 years became my tour guides for the day. They took me to the beach and they explained where they get fish of different sizes. They also showed me snails, crabs and different fish, which they caught themselves. They don’t know what radiation is exactly but they do know that it is harmful to them.
One boy asked me where my village is, and I replied Delhi. They pointed out that Manmohan Singh lives there.
The schools are closed here since September 9. Last year also in September the school was closed for 13 days. Their mothers told me that this affects their education.
The people here are neither dangerous nor are they trouble makers. Their livelihood and safety is at stake and they are continuously living under threat of the police. The need of the hour is to address their genuine concern with dialogue. But their own state Chief Minister has turned away from them and is not willing to engage in a discussion with them.
Ali Abbas covered the ground realities of the anti-nuclear protests in Koodankulam. All image/images have been taken by Ali Abbas.