Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Cry From Koodankulam

S. P. Udayakumar, the leader of the movement against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant, has just sent out a letter asking for help and support. His points are excellent and deserve the attention of all Indians opposed to "development" that is not only iniquitous but enormously dangerous.

I present below several extracts from Udayakumar's letter, beginning with the famous quotation from theologian Martin Niemoller about the spread of terror in Nazi Germany:

"First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."

A few years ago I would have considered it demagogic to quote Niemoller about events in India, but my own experience with censorship and surveillance, and the ugly trends evident all over the country have convinced me that a police State is hardening around us as the super-rich beneficiaries of corporate globalization seek to promote their interests at the expense of the country as a whole. Unless all of us speak out now, the future of democracy in India could be very dim. Other excerpts from the letter follow:

"Pushparayan, the other 12 friends and I have become weaker and tired; but we are still able to sit up and talk to people. Today is the seventh day of the indefinite hunger strike. Nobody from the State Government or the Central Government has bothered to come and see us or talk to us. A medical team came to check our health day before yesterday (March 23) but no public health officials came and offered any help even though some 10,000 people have been congregating here at Idinthakarai every day since March 19th.

"Our friends from Idinthakarai have been cooking some simple meals for all these people and most of the people are sleeping here as there is the prohibitory order of 144 still in effect. They are scared of going out of this foot-ball stadium sized space in front of the St. Lourdes church. The police are waiting for me and Pushparayan to collapse so that we would go to an hospital for treatment and they could arrest us there. How cruel and anti-people our governments could become!"

"In the meantime, the Tamil Nadu government has convened a meeting of some 13 Panchayat leaders to plan to distribute the 500-crore package the government has announced for the victims of nuclear development. ... The police go to some of the coastal villages and order them to go fishing in order to create a pictue of normalcy in the area. They also ask them not to carry any food by boat to Idinthakarai and threaten them with cases if they did. People defy this kind of intimidatory exercises."

India is a highly- and densely-populated country and even a small mishap at a nuclear facility will create such a havoc and meyham for millions of people and jeopardize the survival and well-being of millions and millions of our brothers and sisters. We are not against the progress of our country and state but we feel that such a progress should be longstanding and sustainable for our future generations also. We have no moral authority to poison the resources of our future generations in order to produce electricity for us for 40 years. ..."

The letter goes on to detail some of the oppressive police initiatives to intimidate the poor folk supporting the anti-nuclear movement. Udayakumar's appeal is likely to lose a good deal of support because he presents the face-off in terms of upper caste versus lower caste and minorities. Nevertheless, the opposition to unsustainable development merits broad all-India support.

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