Ten days ago, on March 19, 2012, the National Indian government gave its approval for the first of two Russian-designed nuclear reactors at Koodankulam (Kudankulam) in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
The controversial reactors, which have been under construction since 1988, are situated in a highly populated area. Three million people live within a 30-kilometer range of the two reactor sites, some of them less than a half-mile away.
Soon after the approval was announced, some 10,000 locals began to peacefully protest at the gates of the nuclear power station.
The government’s response was severe. According to a recent appeal from DiaNuke.org, thousands of armed policemen began terrorizing the protesters and the villages in the vicinity of Koodankulam reactor, particularly Idinthakarai village, which is at the forefront of the ongoing anti-nuclear Struggle.
As relayed by DiaNuke.org:
- Idinthakarai has a total population of around 12,000, but more have congregated to make it 20,000, more than half of which are young children. The police have blockaded the villages and cut off the water supplies today to this and other surrounding villages. It can turn out to be a state-sponsored carnage of its own civilians opposing nuclear energy who are forced to live next door to it.
- The closest home to the reactors is only 500 meters. These homes were constructed in 2006 for tsunami affected villagers, four years after the reactors were commissioned. Added to which are approximately 3 million people living in the 30 kilometers zone around the plant defying international stipulations and making the nuclear development technically illegal.
- Blockades are placed all round the nuclear power plant and villages making it impossible for independent observers or media to see the arrests or any other untowards action to its citizens
- Police and para-military forces are terrorizing people by marching into the village every two hours and then withdrawing. They are threatened.
At least 178 protesters have also been charged with serious crimes, such as terrorism and “waging war” against the state.
Meanwhile, an all-too-familiar psywar is being waged from on high.
- The Mainstream media, who already ignores the concerns of the local villagers, is now presenting false information; for instance, that the anti-nuclear protest has ‘fizzled out’ when it is, actually, growing.
- All media has been blocked from entering protest site
- A senior minister in the Union Government recently said that the antinuclear protestors should be dealt with an “iron fist”.
The Government is said to be conducting a “witch-hunt” and trying to paint random people as naxalites (militant communists).
An Appeal for Support
While International Support for the Anti-nuclear Struggle in Koodankulam may be viewed with derision and could even be used as further ‘proof’ of foreign involvement, it is still important for us to stand with our brothers and sisters in India.
That said, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service has initiated a letter-writing campaign urging India’s top government officials to Leave the protesters alone and walk away from Kudankulam.
Alternatively, you can send Protest letters to:
Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu,
Secretariat, Chennai 600 009
Email- firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Prime Minister of India,
South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi-110001
Phone +91-11-23012312 Fax +91-11-23019545, 23016857
Union Minister of Home Affairs,
Ministry ofHome Affairs,
104-107 North Block, New Delhi 110 001 India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979 / 23094221
As well, Please contact these officials and urge them to stop harassing people and to allow essential supplies like water/food/electricity/diesel/medicines:
Chief Secretary: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax: 044 25672304 DGP: email@example.com
Fax: 044 28447703 SP, Tirunelveli: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax: 0462-2568027 District Collector, Tirunelveli: email@example.com
Fax: 0462-2500244 Coast Guard: firstname.lastname@example.org,
Fax: 044-23460423 email@example.com
Background to the nuclear project and the protests
The protest against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant started as soon as the project was commenced in 1988. The agreement for the reactors was inked in 1988 by the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Michael Gorbachev, the President of USSR. More than 15,000 people gathered to protest in the neighbouring town of Kanyakumari in 1989 when the police opened fire indiscriminately, injuring several people.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the project itself went in a limbo, to be resumed after a decade in 1998. The people around the area have been protesting against the project ever since: court cases, petitions, letters to political leaders and policy makers and demonstrations The nuclear accident in Fukushima in March 2011 and the ensuing downturn in public opinion about nuclear energy unleashed a new life to the Koodankulam protests. In August 2011, the people of Idinthakarai and other surrounding villages started agitations afresh: 125 people sat on hunger strike for 12 days while tens of thousands gathered in their support.
For the past 8 months after August 2011, people in Koodankulam have been protesting peacefully and non-violently for the right to a healthy life, consultation and transparency in government conduct.
For more news, background and information visit DiaNuke.org