PUDR strongly condemns the ongoing repression by the state on the peaceful protest against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu particularly since 8 May 2012. It condemns the policy of using tactics of threat and intimidation to crush a democratic movement. The clampdown began shortly after the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which is leading the local struggle, held a meeting in Idinthakarai village on that day with large numbers of the local community. A press conference was also held the same afternoon in the village in which PMANE representatives were able to show the press ledgers with tens of thousands of signatures of people from some sixty villages opposing the nuclear power project. They could also produce some 24,000 voter ID cards that people from surrounding villages had surrendered to register their protest against the state’s callous attitude towards the 302 women and 35 men who had been on indefinite hunger strike in Idinthakarai village since 1 May 2012, protesting the setting up of the Kudankulam nuclear project and expressing their concern.
This present round of intimidation by state authorities began with large numbers of police personnel being deployed soon after these meetings in and around Kudankulam. Section 144 was imposed in the area. The police have surrounded the village of Idinthakarai, the main site of struggle, and refuse to allow visitors to enter the village to meet the protestors or allow the villagers to leave even as the condition of several of those on hunger strike has been deteriorating.
That the objective of these moves is to threaten those associated with the movement with arrest seems clear as they replicate the strategy of the authorities immediately preceding the previous brutal crackdown on the struggle in March 2012. At that time too, the entire village and the protestors peacefully demonstrating had been surrounded, and no one was allowed out of or into the village. More than 180 persons had been arrested at that time, and two of those arrested continue to be in jail till the present. Many of them were charged with sedition (Section 124A of the IPC) and/or waging war against the state (Section 121). In the course of the struggle against the Kudankulam nuclear project, over 3500 persons have been arrested and charged under these sections.
Further, neither the Central nor the state government has tried to engage in dialogue with the popular and locally rooted resistance movement that has emerged on the issue or take its concerns on board. Instead a large number of cases, including those mentioned, have been foisted on those involved. In all till now, 55,795 persons engaged in the local struggle against the nuclear power project are believed to have been implicated in 109 police cases under twenty-one sections of the IPC. The purpose of these arrests and the imposition of charges of sedition on the leaders are evidently to crush this organised and peaceful struggle conducted on entirely democratic and constitutional lines and issues.
The fear of the activists and villagers—that during this present attack in May 2012, the authorities are preparing to swoop down and arrest, charge and detain them as they had in March—thus seems well grounded. Reports that the police are apparently also conducting flag marches in surrounding villages contribute to this fear. Since the time when the village was thus cordoned off, some among those on hunger strike have been persuaded to break their fast by the villagers on health grounds, while other protestors continue to fast.
In this context PUDR demands that the state authorities immediately stop intimidating and criminalising the protestors against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project and thus outlawing democratic dissent; that the protestors be allowed to continue their peaceful and democratic resistance without fear of imminent arrest; that their right to freedom of movement to enter and exit Idinthakarai village be restored immediately in keeping with their constitutional rights; that false charges foisted on the protestors should be dropped immediately; and that the two remaining protestors still under detention should be released immediately.
Paramjeet Singh and Preeti Chauhan