Recently, a fact finding team visited Koodankulam where locals have been at the vanguard of a protracted struggle against the nuclear plant. The investigations by the team vindicate the reports that have long been trickling in, that people have been at the receiving end of unmatched brutalities by the police.
Sedition cases have been filed even against minors in this hurry of making India a nuclear energy superpower. All this is being done without an iota of introspection even after the disaster at Fukushima, which has forced many European countries to shelve their nuclear energy plans. The resolve of the people remains strong and the struggle continues, despite all odds.
Here is the summary of the report:
From individual testimonies of people in Idinthakarai it is evident that many people have been injured. We saw people with burn injuries when they came in the path of the tear gas shells that were fired. Others had injuries from the lathi charge. In several cases people had to get stitches on these wounds. But the most important issue that appeared repeatedly was that people were afraid to step out of the village to seek medical help for fear that they could be arrested.
Villagers complained about the desecration of the Lourdes Matha Church in Idinthakarai, where police had reportedly broken an idol of Mother Mary, and had urinated inside the church premises. Broken pieces of the idol were shown to the team.
In the Tsunami colony, the fear was palpable. Most houses were locked as people are afraid to return to their homes. Several villagers showed us their houses where window panes had been broken, cupboards ransacked and doors damaged allegedly by the police who entered the village on September 10. Thereafter for several days, a police force camped in the village. As a result even today many of the residents of the village are afraid to spend the night there and instead sleep in the tent outside the Lourdes Matha church in Idinthakarai.
Fear was also evident in Vairavikinaru village where villagers showed us evidence of the destruction to houses when the police party raided the village on September 10. Nine people were arrested including a 16-year old boy and a 75 year old man who is practically blind in one eye. The people we spoke to kept repeating that they did not know what they had done to invite such treatment from the police.
Villagers in Koodankulam are even more terrified as they live closest to the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project. On September 10, a large police contingent entered the village, arrested 34 people, broke into houses where the frightened residents hid, and destroyed property and vehicles. Now, villagers said they are so afraid that they lock their doors after dark, many cannot sleep and are fearful when they hear a vehicle entering the village. In all these villages, one common factor was that each of those arrested was charged under identical sections. These included 124A (sedition), 121A (waging war against the state), 307, 353 and 147 and 148.
The other more disturbing testimony was from the women in all four villages. They spoke of the abusive and sexist remarks of the police when they came to their village and also when some of the women went to the police station. One disabled woman gave evidence of physical molestation and another, who was part of protest on the beach near the plant, spoke of police chasing the women into the sea and making obscene gestures.
Despite this situation, villagers expressed their determination to oppose the project. However, they repeatedly asked why no one from the government or from the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited was prepared to hold a proper public hearing where they heard the apprehensions of the villagers and presented their point of view. They asserted that as the people living closest to the nuclear plant they had a right to question and to know all the facts.