At times, it is difficult to convey to people that we are not stopping development, but communicating the right choice of energy source. Especially when it comes to a project like Kudankulam , which seems to be very close to the heart of people in Tamil Nadu. It is probably a situation of how people understand and perceive nuclear energy.
We were a part of the public engagement activity in Chennai, to convey the message about the dangers of nuclear energy, and stress on renewable energy as a solution. There could not have been a place better than the venue of the open of the IPL to carry out this activity. Millions of people follow this tournament from their homes or at the stadium.
The venue was the famous Chepauk stadium of Chennai, and all the excited faces were just waiting to go inside the stadium. In the middle of this excitement was a group of ticket-less activists who were there for a different purpose. The idea was to utilize the space and platform of the IPL match and communicate the message the cricketing way. So, every time a batsman hit a four or a six, or a bowler claims a wicket, the spectators near the dugout area flashed placards which read 'STOP KUDANKULAM'/ 'BOWL OUT KUDANKULAM', and spread the message about the dangers of nuclear energy to millions of people.
The message was simple; a peaceful interactive activity against the unsafe nuclear plants. While we were talking to people and distributing the pamphlets outside the Chepauk stadium, a police vehicle spotted us and one of the officers questioned Jagan about the activity. The "Stop Kudankulam" message made him furious and he concluded that we were doing an anti-government campaign.
We tried telling him that the activity was not anti-government. It was just an effort to say that the dangers of nuclear energy were ignored. At that point, the police was uncertain about what action to take. They were also trying to control the large crowd coming in to watch the cricket match.
We decided to move away from immediate vicinity of the entrance of this particular area to the main road. It seems like they came looking for us, and with much rage, they took away our placards and one of our activists, Jagan, with them.
Jagan's account of the police station
"Initially, I was confused. I had no idea as to what was happening, but then I thought staying calm is the best option. I told them whatever they asked me.
Inside the police station for the first 15 mins, I could only see the police being very angry about what we had done. One of them almost hit me, but then he held back. I was baffled. Did he really want to hit me or was it just a normal tactic of the police to frighten people?
While all this was happening I was able to speak to Shiva, and tell her that I was in D1 station near the Chepauk stadium."
Questions and more questions
Another volunteer and I joined Jagan at the police station and then began another round of questions. The questions were of various kinds like, "What is the motive of your activity? Who has told you to do this? Who is your head? "
After being questioned for 2 hours, we had to wait for another 2 hours for our release.
We kept receiving text messages, phone calls and updates throughout our ordeal at the police station. This told us, that we were not alone. Nor are the people of Kudankulam or anyone trying to raise their voice against unsafe nuclear energy.
As citizens of this free country we have the right to say NO, or protest without harming anyone else. That is exactly what we were doing, but strangely enough, we were treated like criminals.
There can be a difference of opinion, and we respect that, but there is something called freedom of expression, and that is exactly what we were exercising. We were not anti – government or corporate. We were there to show solidarity with all those thousands of people, protesting in not-so-comfortable situations, for our safety.