Twenty-four anti-nuclear activists on hunger strike
Twenty-four hunger strikers from villages of the Tirunelveli District are on indefinite hunger striker and from 4th May, 2012 onwards, local women have proposed that they too will join the fast – following the scheduled talks with the Tamil Nadu Government 3rd May. They will demand the closure of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) permanently.
People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) associate convener M. Pushparayan reports that this is the fourth such hunger strike at Idinthakarai. He lists the people involved as fourteen from Idinthakarai village, mostly twenty-year olds; one from Koodankulam; eight from Kuthenkazhi; and one from Kooduthazhai.
They are pressing for the following:
1. Constitute an independent and transparent national committee on hydrology, geology, oceanography and seismology of the region
2. Conduct disaster management and evacuation exercises everywhere in 30 km radius of KKNPP adhering to international standards
3. Share copies of the secret inter-governmental agreement between India and Russia in 2008 on nuclear liability
4. Inform about relevant information about KKNPP nuclear waste and management
5. Pass an Assembly or Cabinet Resolution that No FRESH water shall be diverted to KKNPP, neither from Petchippaarai Dam nor from Tamirabarani River
6. Respect the democratic rights of people to oppose the KKNPP peacefully and non-violently.
One very recent and sad case was the destruction of school property which came after intimidating phone calls and messages to Dr. S.P. Udayakumar (Kumar to his friends) who is a longtime leader in the peaceful resistance against nuclear power in India.
The Indian government has threatened to charge him with terrorism and “waging war” for his role in leading the nonviolent citizens movement against operation of the nearly-completed Kudankulam nuclear reactors.
In a letter to friends he states: *“That night the police officer who was on security duty at our SACCER Matriculation School outside Nagercoil town had received a phone call from the Kanyakumari District SP office to go away from the school. Then a group of vandals, obviously with the blessings of the police, had entered the school and destroyed it very badly. The compound wall was completely demolished and the gate damaged. They ransacked the school bus after tearing down the car shed’s iron shutters. They had entered the KG classrooms and destroyed all the small little chairs which my children were using to sit on. They had broken all the tables and chairs and I do not understand why they punished my little children like this. The vandals had entered our school library and destroyed all the 12 glass bookshelves and tables and threw away the books. My 250 children are all avid readers and have been using our library extensively. This reminds me of the burning of the Public Library at Jaffna a few years ago…”*
History of conflict:
India’s nuclear power plant operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIl) is building the KNPP at Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu. Work at the project came to a standstill last year after villagers from the area, fearing for lives in case of a nuclear accident – especially following Fukushima – mounted an intense protest. The Tamil Nadu government had earlier passed a resolution asking the central government to halt work at the plant to allay the fears of the locals. To resolve the issue, central and state governments set up investigative panels. The central panel submitted its final report in January favouring the project; the Tamil Nadu government’s expert committee also favoured the project.
In March this year the state government gave a green light restarting the project and announced Rs.500 crore additional budget for that area to go towards infrastructure. Work at KNPP was restarted with police protection, false accusations and jailings.