ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Enemies of the State?

Far from allaying concerns about the Koodankulam plant, the state persists in criminalising the protesters.

Since when has the act of holding a peaceful protest become an act of sedition? Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is only one of the many provisions that the Government of Tamil Nadu has used in its attempt to suppress the year-long agitation against the commissioning of the nuclear power plant at Koodankulam in Tirunelveli district. On 10 and 11 September, when the protesters decided to lay siege to the plant, the state police resorted to ever greater brutality, ­firing tear gas shells and having a coast guard plane fly repeatedly at a low altitude over the crowd of protesters. The latest protest was in response to the Madras High Court’s decision to quash a petition seeking to stop the commissioning of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), and to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) giving its clearance to the loading of fuel rods into the reactors.

The situation in the villages around Koodankulam need not have taken this turn if the Indian state had made a genuine attempt to allay the fears of the residents in the area about the safety features of the nuclear project. Instead of accepting their apprehensions as genuine, the state and central governments chose to treat the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which has spearheaded the campaign against the commissioning of the project, with contempt by repeatedly insinuating the presence of a “foreign hand” in its activism. It is as if Indians do not have the intelligence to assess for themselves if a particular project will affect them adversely. And in line with this attitude, cases of sedition (Section 124A of the IPC) and waging war against the state (Section 121) have been slapped on many activists as well as the PMANE leadership. 

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