On October 1, CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya made a solidarity visit to the Koodankulam struggle site, along with a team of CPI(ML) leaders including Politburo member S Kumaraswamy, Tamil Nadu State Secretary Balasundaram, G Ramesh (State Committee member and Tirunelveli advocate working in support of the Koodankulam struggle) and Chandran from Coimbatore.
Police arrested the team to prevent it from reaching the struggle site. Here is an account of the experience by Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya.
On 30 September, 2012, when Left activists from Delhi and neighbouring states had assembled in Delhi’s Mavalankar Auditorium to discuss the Left and democratic agenda to intervene in the deepening national crisis, they had one long-distance participant. In a video message, SP Udayakumar of People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy appealed to the Left to stand by the fighting people of Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu who are being persecuted by the Indian state for daring to oppose the Koodankulam nuclear plant. The convention resolved to observe a fortnight-long countrywide campaign from October 1 to 15 in support of the just demand and struggle of the people of Koodankulam. As part of the campaign, a team of CPI(ML) central leaders was to visit Idinthakarai where local people have been courageously continuing their struggle for more than last 400 days defying state repression.
When a journalist from Asianet asked me if I thought we would be allowed to go there I got the first inkling of what might be in store for us the next day. We had been to Dhinkia and other villages of Jagatsinghpur several times to express solidarity with the people of Odisha fighting against the proposed occupation of their land by Posco. Even as thousands of people were prevented from leaving their villages, activists from outside never had a problem visiting the villages and meeting the local people. I had earlier thought Jayalalitha was also following in the footsteps of Naveen Patnaik and implementing the Odisha model in Tamil Nadu. But on reaching the Tuticorin airport on the morning of October 1, I could realise she had moved ahead of her new found alliance partner. She wants to cordon off Idinthakarai from the rest of the country and physically isolate the brave fighters against the Koodankulam nuclear plant from their innumerable friends and supporters elsewhere in Tamil Nadu and beyond.
We had initially planned to go to Tirunelveli and join our local comrades in a solidarity meeting and then proceed towards Idinthakarai. Soon we got the information that there was heavy police deployment in Tirunelveli to stop comrades from marching to Idinthakarai. We quickly changed plan and headed straight towards Idinthakarai. We managed to get fairly close to the site in a vehicle that had no party flag and could not be recognised from outside as one carrying CPI(ML) leaders. But once we reached Radhapuram we ran into a police barricade, the officials giving us an option of retreating ‘freely’ or facing arrest. We were told a few days ago, Comrade VS Achuthanandan was also likewise sent back from Kerala-TN border. We argued with the police against this paranoia and denial of basic democratic right of free movement of free citizens in their own country, but to no avail. We were arrested by the police. Soon news came that comrades in Tirunelveli had also been arrested as were comrades coming from Kanyakumari district.
We wanted to go to Idinthakarai to salute our brave sisters and brothers who have been holding high the banner of truth and reason in the face of the organised repression and lies unleashed by the Indian state. The Supreme Court recognises safety as a key issue, but obviously does not think that the affected people should have the most crucial say in this matter. The brave and fighting people of Koodankulam deserve all our support and solidarity as they have alerted the whole world against the utterly irrational and autocratic move of the powers that be in inviting a potential disaster. The world heard of Chernobyl and Fukushima after disasters struck, but Jaitapur and Koodankulam are in a different league where the whole world knows about these places for the brave struggle of the people against the ominous nuclear obsession of the rulers. The people of Koodankulam and Jaitapur are fighting not just to save their own land and lives, but for the safety of generations to come. Tamil Nadu has already suffered the enormous tragedy of a devastating tsunami; must the people be condemned now to live forever in the shadow of the fear of a nuclear tsunami?
Developed countries across the world are increasingly moving away from nuclear energy, yet the Indian ruling elite are dumping the most expensive and outdated 20th century technology in the 21st century when the world is increasingly resorting to safer, cheaper, and cleaner energy options. Ironically enough from the police custody at Radhapuram we could see wind mills all around us, indicating the growing viability of wind power as an energy option.
It is ironical that governments which are systematically sacrificing all our vital national interests at the altar of FDI and humiliating deals with imperialist powers, are trying to malign and muffle the voice of truth and justice in Koodankulam by dubbing the movement as being ‘instigated by foreign agencies’. And in the process the government has already begun treating Koodankulam as foreign territory where the interests of nuclear powers prevail over the basic rights of the Indian people.
We could not physically meet our comrades in Koodankulam, but the police could not stop us from having a telephonic conversation with Comrade Udayakumar, just as the voice of the people of Koodankulam could not be stopped from reaching the September 30 convention in the national capital. These little freedoms of course mean a lot at a time when our bigger rights are at stake. Comrade Udayakumar assured us that the morale of the Koodankulam struggle remained undiminished and the people were planning to lay siege to the TN Assembly on October 29 when the state government has convened a special session to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of the foundation of the State Assembly. We assured him of our unflinching support on behalf of CPI(ML) and all other fighting Left and democratic forces in the country.
The battle of Koodankulam is a battle for democracy. It is a battle as much for public safety as truth and reason. We must all join it and fight on till victory is achieved.