The following is a press release statement by Peoples’ Solidarity Concerns – Bangalore, which includes the New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India), on the ongoing agitation against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant.
“Freedom of information has deteriorated significantly of late in India, which was ranked 131st out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.”– Concludes the recent press statement by the internationally acclaimed network of independent journalists commenting on the denial of access to report, and entry into the village Idindhakarai where the protesters against the Koodankulam Nuclear Plant have camped for 8 months.
The report released in its website en.rsf.org on March 21, addressing the government of Tamil Nadu directly, has unequivocally expressed its displeasure over the deployment of police forces in the areas surrounding Koodankulam to suppress media reporting and urged “the Tamil Nadu government to modify the orders and allow journalists full access.”
On March 19, the state government ordered the deployment of 32 battalions of Tamil Nadu Special Police Force and 4 companies of Rapid Action Force belonging to the Central Industrial Security Force in Koodankulam creating a sense of anxiety among the protesters and with the clear intention of breaking the struggle through any means. The print and broadcast media which have been denied access to the protesting villagers since then were fed with “news” by the state authorities which were disseminated to the public.
Peaceful demonstrators in the village Idindhakarai who have taken to protest for the past 8 months in a democratic and peaceful means, have been under a sort of “medieval siege” from March 19, with total denial of access to the outside world. Food supply including water and milk, have been cut off by road blockade. On the brink of a humanitarian crisis after four days of blockade, the villagers, who incidentally are fishermen, have managed to supply the protesters with minimal basic needs through sea.
The statement by the Reporters Without Borders at this critical juncture is of extreme significance, in our initiative to ensure freedom access to information and safeguarding the peaceful protest from the iron clutches of state repression. Regretfully, the Tamil Nadu State government by “word of mouth” has instructed the print and broadcast media in the State, not to pay attention to the report that undeniably was damning about its mode of functioning and a total black-out on the report was imposed unofficially.
With all avenues of communicating the message to the public having been blocked in the State we have been impelled to call for this press meet here in Bangalore. We humbly request the journalists and media persons who have assembled here to take this message out to the world in the spirit of freedom of thought and freedom and press.
In what is described as the Mullikvaaikal Operation by S.P.Udayakumar the convener of Peoples Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) the state has unleashed an embargo on its own citizens. Just like the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka, a war without witness, the Indian state has cut off the villages of Idindhagari and Koodankulam from the rest of the world with their brutal embargo.
The protest against the Koodankulam nuclear power project started from day one when the deal was singed by the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, just 2 years after the Chernobyl accident. The proposed foundation laying ceremony was put off indefinitely due to widespread opposition to the project among the local public.
The collapse of Soviet Union and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi shelved the project. In 1998 H.D Deve Gowda and Boris Yelstin signed a supplement to the 1988 agreement along with arms deals worth millions of dollars. The protest against the plant intensified following the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. The villages surrounding Koodankulam joined the peaceful protest against the nuclear plant. The centre had no answers to the genuine questions raised by the protesters. Rather it tried to defame the movement with charges of “foreign hand” and involvement of Christian missionaries.
On Feb 4th 2012, Chief minister of Tamil Nadu J.Jayalalitha passed a resolution in the state assembly asking the centre to stop operations in Koodankulam and allay the fears of the people. It also set up an experts panel to look into the safety, people’s fears about the nuclear power project.
S.P Udayakumar, Convener of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) filed a legal notice demanding apology against Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs V. Narayanasamy for making an allegation that he has received foreign funds. In response the Union Ministers has retracted his claims and the right wing Tamil News paper Dinamalar has apologized for publishing the news. Days later Prime minster Manmohan Singh reiterated the same claim without any proper evident and a case was filed against him too.
Unable to break the non-violent protest, the Government has resorted to extra judicial and psychological means to push the hazardous nuclear power plant down the throat of the people of Tamil Nadu. It brought various “Organic Intellectuals”, including the former president Mr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam in to bear testimony about the safety of nuclear power plants and India’s need of nuclear power to “Develop”.
The members of PMANE including 20 women were brutally attacked in Tirunelveli Collectorate on Jan 31st when they arrived there for talks with the Government expert panel. The Attack was carried out by Congress and Hindutva thugs who have been carrying out vicious propaganda in favour of the Nuclear plant.
On the other hand the power cuts in Tamil Nadu has been increased to an unprecedented level of 8 hrs a day. This move by the government came at a juncture when people of Tamil Nadu have started to realize the hazards of a nuclear power plant by the untiring propaganda of the activist groups in Tami Nadu. How else should it be interpreted other than a blatant attack on the mass psychology and make them accept the nuclear power plant!!!??
The day after the by elections in Sankaran Kovil Chief Minister Jayalalitha who swore not to open the plant without the consent of the local people gave a green signal to the project. It brought down severe crack down on the protesters. Hundreds of protesters were arrested on the first day. 6000 armed policemen, led by Tamil Nadu’s Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), 3 DIGs (Deputy Inspector Generals) and 20 SPS (Superintendents of Police) who are present themselves are presiding over this operation.
The police blocked all the roads to Koodankulam and Indidhakarai to prevent mobilization of the people. Yet nearly 20,000 people reached Idindhagarai via sea and foot. Power supply was terminated to both the villages and only after intervention by some journalists it was restored. Thepolice are conducting frequent flag marches to instigate fear among the protesters. The police have also prevented journalists from various national media from entering into the villages and some journalists were forced to leave the villages. The international association “Reporters without Borders” have condemned the act denial by the state to the access of the media.
A group of men attacked the school run by Meera Udhayakumar in Nagerkovil and vandalized the entire premise. NDTV interviewed her shortly after that but never brought out that news in their channel. Police have clamped down Section 144 in the villages. Electricity, water milk was cut for the people for two days. Due to the lack of milk, the mothers were feeding their newborns with sugar water. The protesters include nearly 5000 women some of them pregnant and there are no medical facilities available to them due to the embargo.
A PIL was filed in Chennai high court against the use of 144 in Indindhagarai and the illegal embargo on water, milk and food. The Judges, Chief Justice E.Q Iqbal and T.S Sivagnanam of Madras high court ordered Tamil Nadu Police to ensure uninterrupted access to basic amenities like electricity, food, milk and water for villagers protesting against Koodankulam nuclear power plant. However they have reserved their orders against other pleas including the use of 144.
15 villagers, including Pushparayan and Udayakumar, are on hunger strike from 19th of march. The protest in Koodankulam is not a symbol of the protest against nuclear energy. It is the symbol of the whole spectrum of protests of oppressed masses victimized by the hegemonic aims of the Indian state. It is the moral responsibility of all media to bring to light the atrocities committed by the state on the non violent protests that has reached such a crucial stage.
Peoples’ Solidarity Concerns – Bangalore
A platform for human solidarity against injustice, inequality, oppression & discrimination