Demo­cratic protest. 8,000 Sedi

The protest over the nu­clear plant in Koodanku­lam has claimed the liveli­hood of thou­sands, with bo­gus charges filed and re­stric­tions on their oc­cu­pa­tion, re­ports

Tehelka - - KOODANKULAM - SOUMIK MUKHER­JEE

IDINTHAKARAI, A small coastal vil­lage in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli dis­trict, over­looks a hori­zon dot­ted with wind­mills. The vil­lage is pop­u­lated by small-time fish­er­men ek­ing out a mod­est liv­ing. But, ac­cord­ing to the reg­is­ter at the Ku­danku­lam po­lice sta­tion, this vil­lage is the coun­try’s most no­to­ri­ous place. Peo­ple here are wag­ing a war against the na­tion. They are all sedi­tious. This is the first time, in the his­tory of this coun­try, that 8,000 cases of sedi­tion and wag­ing a war against the na­tion have been reg­is­tered, at a sin­gle po­lice sta­tion.

How­ever, a visit to Idinthakarai dis­pels this myth of sedi­tion. The vil­lage, at the brink of a soon-to-be func­tional 2,000 MW nu­clear plant, is def­i­nitely wag­ing a war. Not against the State, though, but for its right to a nu­clear dis­as­ter-free fu­ture.

A nu­clear plant, lo­cated only a few kilo­me­tres away from the vil­lages, threat­ens the very ex­is­tence of the peo­ple in Koodanku­lam. Fish­ing, their prin­ci­pal means of liveli­hood, is fac­ing ex­tinc­tion.

“If any­thing, this has only triv­i­alised the grav­ity of the charges of sedi­tion,” says SP Udayaku­mar, the leader of Peo­ple’s Move­ment against Nu­clear En­ergy ( PMANE). “We led a demo­cratic and non­vi­o­lent protest here for over a year and they charged 8,000 peo­ple with sedi­tion. If we are sedi­tious, then the Atomic En­ergy Re­search Board ( AERB), which has been named by the CAG for ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the nu­clear pol­icy, is com­mit­ting a big­ger crime by play­ing with mil­lions of lives,” he says. Apart from sedi­tion cases, crim­i­nal cases have been lodged against as many as 66,000 peo­ple in the past year.

Most of the sedi­tion cases were lodged on three oc­ca­sions. Dur­ing a sit-in at the plant premises in Oc­to­ber 2011, the Koodanku­lam po­lice, af­ter us­ing vi­o­lent means to ward off the pro­test­ers, lodged as many as 3,000 cases. In Novem­ber 2011, more cases were filed when fish­er­men from the neigh­bour­ing vil­lages staged a peace­ful demon­stra­tion by the sea. The last mass reg­is­tra­tion of sedi­tion cases oc­curred re­cently, on In­de­pen­dence Day this year. As a sign of protest, vil­lagers in the sur­round­ing ar­eas of the plant re­fused to hoist the na­tional flag. They put up black flags in­stead. The dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tion deemed the protest sedi­tious, nev­er­the­less. “A few thou­sand more cases of wag­ing war against the na­tion were lodged that day,” in­forms Push­parayan Vic­to­ria, a col­league of Udayku­mar’s.

Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan rub­bishes the cases, even call­ing them ‘ab­surd’. “The SC, in a ver­dict in 1962, said that only an act of over­throw­ing the State qual­i­fies as sedi­tion. This is just an in­stance of a peace­ful move­ment be­ing sup­pressed by these false cases,” he says.

In­ter­est­ingly, the Tirunelveli Po­lice back­tracked on all their pre­vi­ous atroc­i­ties. Su­per­in­ten­dent of Po­lice Vi­jayen­dra Bi­dari says that po­lice never dealt with the pro­test­ers in an ‘un­demo­cratic man­ner.’ “The num­bers that are do­ing the rounds are false,” says Bi­dari. “We have named only 20 peo­ple or so in the FIRs,” he says. Since most of the names were reg­is­tered un­der ‘oth­ers’, the en­tire vil­lage is un­der the threat of a ju­di­cial trial now. “We are work­ing on the chargesheets and we have enough ev­i­dence against some of these peo­ple, which will be pro­duced in the court,” Bi­dari as­serts.

Civil so­ci­ety from all over the coun­try have protested against the State’s treat­ment

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