Tion cases. Is this a free country?
of a peaceful movement. Khurram Pervez, a civil society activist from Kashmir, says, “It’s nothing new. The state of India monopolises violence. Any voice of dissent, in Kashmir, Northeast or Koodankulam, is sedition in its eyes. We were shocked to see that people from a small village are being charged with sedition because of protesting against a nuclear plant.”
As a result of the cases, people in Kudankulam are being denied their basic rights. “No new passports are being issued; in fact, some of the passports that arrived have been called back,” informs Victoria. Even though the Tirunelveli Police claims they cleared all the passport applications, TEHELKA found that no passports have been issued to people in the village, who applied in the past one year. “I have secured a job in Saudi Arabia. My agent assured me of a visa too, but I’ve been waiting for the passport for the past one year,” says Joihar, 24. “My name is not there in any FIR, but I’m facing the brunt,” he says. It is the same situation with many youngsters in Koodankulam, and family members rue
People who have found jobs abroad claim they have been denied their passports because of the sedition charges
this denial of opportunity to go abroad and add to the collective income.
The small-scale fishing industry, which has been going through turmoil over the past year because of the protest, is no longer profitable. “The prawn season is over and we caught nothing this year as the breeding area was declared a ‘restricted land’ by the plant authority,” says Francis Leon, a villager in Koodankulam. “The fishermen are now living off a meagre income by making bidis,” he says. The movement is being run by the locals, for which they are sacrificing their personal lives. “The government alleges that our struggle is being funded by the Catholic churchrun NGOs, but in reality, people are funding their own movement,” says Udayakumar.
Rosari, a housewife in her 50s, seconds the sentiment. “This economic stalemate has ruined our lives in the past year. We can’t send our children to school. We’ve stopped celebrating festivals,” she says. “The plant is our nemesis; it will slowly kill all the nearby villages just like it happened in Kalapakkam. Now there is no fish to catch,” says 38-year-old Belsi.
Now, the residents are waiting for Madras High Court’s verdict. “The protest has lost a bit of its sheen, because people had to carry on with their lives. But as soon as the verdict is out, which will be definitely against us, we will start afresh,” says Amrithraj, a documentary photographer, who has been recording the movement
since the very beginning. THE PROTESTERS believe the irregularities being unearthed every day in nuclear policies will strengthen the cause and solidify the movement. In an RTI reply, the National Disaster Management Authority recently revealed that India does not have a policy on spreading public awareness about a possible nuclear disaster. “It can only deal with a disaster after it has taken place. The State is playing with its subjects in the name of development,” says Udayakumar.
Till the Koodankulam nuclear power plant gears up for its operation, the villagers find themselves in a stalemate. “There is no more faith in the state government too,” says Udayakumar. “Jayalalithaa supported us as the leader of Opposition but now that she is in power, nothing is being done,” he says. There is no support from nearby states like Kerala either. “They want 500 MW of electricity from this plant, but forget that in case of a disaster, they are susceptible in an equal measure,” he says.
Curiously enough, two windmills from the Tamil Nadu Energy Department Agency stand in the premises of the plant. Does the administration know that this grid alone produces 3,500 MW electricity from the windmills, almost twice as much as the much-hyped nuclear plant?