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Field Report on the Koodankulam Struggle: People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy

by People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, 13 September 2011

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Idinthakarai Village, Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu

September 13, 2011

koodankulam@yahoo.com

9865683735

September 10, 2011

Many of us, the organizers, gathered at Idinthakarai village and started preparing for our hunger strike from September 11, 2011. Around 3:00 PM we received the news that the police was arresting some of our activists at Koodankulam village. Some 500 women had blocked the road and demanded their immediate release. The police relented and the women also dispersed. The authorities invited 10 people for talks but later foisted cases on 510 people. So many cases have been filed against many people. The media covered the event extensively.

DAY 1: September 11, 2011

Considering the Fukushima nightmare, the police harassment and the DAE Chief’s announcement that the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) would go critical in September, we decided to embark on an indefinite hunger strike. We made it very clear that our strike would be completely nonviolent and we would follow the Gandhian ethos and practices. Some five to seven thousand people from Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts gathered in front of the St. Lurdes’s church at Idinthakarai. Anti-nuclear activists performed cultural programs, sang social awareness songs, and gave speeches. The local MLA Mr. Michael Rayappan of DMDK showed up and expressed his solidarity with the people. The whole group was observing a day-long fast and at the end of the day we started gathering the names of indefinite hunger strikers. 127 people including 20 women, 4 physically challenged, 4 Catholic priests and 3 nuns decided to fast. Proper records were prepared about their background, health history and so forth. At 5 PM, the people dispersed and the indefinite hunger strikers slept in the front porch of the church. Several hundred local people slept around the church to express their solidarity and to provide security to the indefinite hunger strikers.

DAY 2: September 12, 2011

People started pouring in from all parts of southern Tamil Nadu from 9 am. There were some 12 to 15 thousand people around 11 am. The Most Rev Bishop of Thoothukudi cmae visited at 9 am and stayed with us the whole day. He was also fasting with the group. The General Secretary of MDMK Vaiko and Balaprajathipathi Adigalar also came. The Bishop, Vaiko and Adigalar addressed the crowd and opposed the Koodankulam nuclear plant. Several activists also spoke. We concluded the day at 5 PM. And the indefinite hunger strikers continued their fast and several hundred local villagers slept around the church. Several media groups were there to cover the event. A medical team checked all the indefinite hunger strikers for any health issues.

DAY 3: September 13, 2011

People started coming in from 9 AM and the crowd was more than 10,000 people at its peak. The Tamil Nadu Merchants’ Association chief Mr. Vellayan came along with his office bearers. They announced their decision to organize protests against the KKNPP in all district headquarters all over Tamil Nadu on September 20, 2011 and a complete shut down in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari Districts on that day. The Manithaneya Makkal Katchi leaders also came and they announced that their party would demonstrate against the nuke plant on September 23rd. No government official came to see the indefinite hunger strikers even after three days of fasting. Angry and agitated about this gross callousness of the authorities, some 500 women resorted to block the road and halted the vehicles on the road. With so much difficulty, we managed to bring them back to the strike venue.

National media reached the venue today and telecast live programs.

Several people fainted today. Two revenue department officers asked a small group of us to go and meet them in the outskirts of the village. They wanted 15 of us to go and meet the District Collector and the Police Chief at the Koodankulam police station. We refused to go with them and asked the crowd for their opinion. They all said that the authorities should come to see us at the strike venue and we should not go to see them. We concluded the day around 6:15 PM.

We received a word from our MLA that his application to speak in the Tamil Nadu Assembly about our struggle and demands was quashed and he was not allowed to speak. This makes us doubt the very functioning of our democracy. Neither the Chief Minister nor any of her ministers has ever spoken a word about us, our struggle or our demands. No need to say anything about our distant Delhi government; they never speak a word about the people or our issues.

Indefinite hunger strikers are getting weak; people are getting upset. But the strike continues in a very orderly and nonviolent manner. People keep invoking the ways and means of Jesus Christ and Mahatma Gandhi.

Here we give a report for your consideration about the Russian nuclear technology. A report (http://www.bellona.org/articles/articles_2011/rosatom_report) prepared for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev by state agencies concerned with the safety of Russia’s nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster reveals that Russia’s reactors are completely under-prepared for both natural and man-made disasters. The report has come from an amalgam of sources such as the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Federal Service for Environmental, Technological and Nuclear oversight, or Rostekhnadzor, as well as Rosatom. According to chief engineer Ole Reistad of the Norwegian Institute for Energy Technology (IFI): “The report reveals deficiencies which have never before been mentioned publicly, nor reported internationally.”

The report claims that Russia’s nuclear plants do not have relevant regulations in place for personnel to know how to deal with large-scale natural disasters or other serious contingencies. It also establishes that electrical and safety-significant systems do not receive the attention they need, resulting in a lack of required protection. The report questions the capability of Russian reactors to remain safe for extended periods of time if cooling systems fail. There is no guarantee that power backup systems will be effective should this happen. Russian reactors are vulnerable to the kinds of hydrogen explosions that tore through three reactor buildings at Fukushima Daiichi.

We demand that the KKNPP be shut down permanently! And our right to life and livelihood be honored and respected! We want to make our country a world leader with New Energy, Appropriate Technology and Sustainable Development and not a slave of America, Russia and France. We want to leave a safe and healthy Earth, Seas and Sky for our children and their children not nuclear bombs and waste dumps.

Please support us in our struggle.

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