· Activists, struggle communities along with other professionals from varied walks of life take midnight pledge to fight against the Nuclear plant and to fight the forces of death and destruction.
· Trade Unions, environmental groups, human rights organisations, etc. extend solidarity to people’s struggle at Kudankulam
· Scientists, senior activists, artists, film makers, lawyers & other professionals join the struggle on the eve of New Year 2013
· Night-long celebrations at Idinthakarai beach reverberate the spirit of resistance, assertion, freedom and democracy
As 2012 came to a close and 2013 dawned, hundreds of people sang and danced together at the Idinthakarai coast, adjacent to the Kudankulam Nuclear Plant. Among the thousands who gathered were more than three hundred people who came from outside the region, to join the local people. They came to the coastal hamlets around Kudankulam to support the spirit of freedom, humanity, resistance and democracy represented by the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE). People’s movements from Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, West Bengal, Karnataka, Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu among other states along with activists, trade unions, professionals, artists, students and others have come to oppose the undemocratic imposition of a nuclear reactor within two kilometres of Idinthakarai. The local people have come from the coastal villages of Idinthakarai, Kudankulam, Vairavikinaru, Kuthankuzhi, Koottappuli and Perumanal.
The movement in Idinthakarai is representative of many people’s struggles in various parts of the country against the lack of local people’s participation in decisions that affect them and generations after them. With promises of dramatic changes for local people, mines in Jharkhand, thermal power plants in Odisha and hydro- electric plants are established. However, the experience of the local people show they are often left in the shadow of such development. This negligence of people has reached its peak with the bogus promise of electricity, energy, etc. taking the centre-stage on the issues around displacement and destructive development paradigm. This is demonstrated in the villages next to many thermal plants and dams in Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Odisha and places like Raichur. With corporations awaiting to grab the electricity generated at the Kudankulam plant, no different fate awaits the people of Idinthakarai, Kudankulam and even rest of Tamil Nadu.
31st December in Idinthakarai has turned out to be a memorable experience for the local people and those who came from different parts of India. The day began with children from all over India coming together to paint a mural against the nuclear reactor in Kudankulam. It was followed by a rally accompanied by music, song and dance through the coastal hamlets around Idinthakarai. The children took the lead to assert their right to live a life safe from the risks of nuclear radiation. With the beating of drums, the Janwadi Sanstrutik Andolan from Odisha opened the programme to welcome the people gathered in solidarity at the Idinthakarai Lourde Matha Church. Despite speaking various languages, they raised a joint voice against the proposed nuclear plant.
Hajirabi representing the people affected by Bhopal Gas disaster of 1984 highlighted how the people of Bhopal were continuing to live the tragedy despite all false promises of the government and Union Carbide (now Dow Chemicals). Many speakers highlighted how, when democratic people’s struggles were exercising their right to protest, they have faced difficulties, harassment, arrests and even death. The case of Sr. Valsa John was highlighted in Jharkhand, who was murdered when she was leading protests against the usurping of traditional forests of the Adivasi community for uranium mines. During this process of protests, they were labelled as traitors, enemies of the state and most recently terrorists, making it difficult to lead normal lives. Ashim Roy, General Secretary of the New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI is a national trade union of workers from varied sectors) affirmed that it is the duty of the new people’s movements to bring awareness to the old movements like trade unions, with regard to the assertive land protection struggles. He reaffirmed NTUI’s support to the struggle at Kudankulam.
Many speakers also highlighted how many villages across India were in a permanent siege, with many villages surrounded by the local police, the Central Reserve Police Force, the Rapid Action Force and other para military forces. In order to intimidate local resistance, thousands of fabricated cases are slapped onto protesters, who have to live with the constant threat of arrest. The experiences from Jagatsingpur (anti-POSCO struggle), Latehar (Jharkhand), Jaitapur (anti-nuclear plant struggle in Maharshtra), Chengara (land struggle in Kerala), etc. have not been different.
Selvam from the Tamil Nadu Eearkai Vyavasaya Sangam highlighted how the State has been painting a rosy picture for the people if they leave agriculture and other traditional livelihoods like fishing. However, speaker after speaker highlighted how various development projects have left them impoverished as lose access to their traditional livelihoods and at the same time cannot access the benefits promised by the State.
T. Peter from the National Fishworkers’ Forum highlighted the sacrifices the fishing community have made for the greater good of the country. It was the coastal villages and the fishworkers who sacrificed their land to establish the Thumba satellite launch station. But he asserted that for destructive developmental projects like the Nuclear project, the same fishworkers will give their life to protect land, livelihood and marine resources. It is a battle of life against the forces of death, he asserted. Peter also announced that fishworkers from across the country will hold January 21st as solidarity day in support of the people’s struggle in Kudankulam.
The day witnessed cultural programmes by Space theatre (Goa), Dynamic Action (Kerala), Delhi Solidarity Group, Susanta Das (West Bengal), children’s programmes from Idiantahkarai. The night witnessed songs, dances and cultural performances that lasted till the dawn of the first day of 2013. Eminent citizens and senior movement activists including Dr. Binayak Sen, Admiral (Rtd) Ramdas, Achin Vinaik, Ajitha George, Adv. Colin Gonsalves, Adv. Clifton D’Rozario, Praful Bidwai, Gabriela Dietrich, Ashim Roy, Lalita Ramdas, Wilfred D’costa, Dr. Meher Engineer, T. Peter, Sr. Celia, Vilayodi Venugopal, Laha Gopalan, and others participated in the events held at Lourde Matha Church premises at Idinthakarai. They were joined by eminent filmmakers, photographers, actors, singers, playwrights, scientists, and local movement representatives including Dr. S P Udayakumar, Mary, Malar Manickam, Inita Sahayam, Pushparayan, Milton and others.
During the evening, young activists from all over the country came together to share their dreams, hopes and aspirations of local people. They shared their hope that the development process would be more inclusive and participatory with local communities deciding on their common future. They highlighted their common dream of more democratic decision-making and a greater stake for local people in local development.
1st January 2013