Friday, March 23, 2012

Koodamkulam conundrum deepens

Shanti Priya/ Chennai

‘There is a concerted effort to discredit our movement’

The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) that has been fighting against the Koondankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in Tamil Nadu was in the thick of controversy after the PMO charged that certain western funded NGOs were behind its agitation. The Prime Minister himself led the attack when he said that NGOs in the US backed the agitation. Sopan Correspondent spoke to SP Udayakumar, chief of the organisation. Excerpts

What do have to say about the allegation that your outfit is being supported by the US and Scandinavian NGOs? Prime Minister and his senior colleagues have attacked NGOs working against the power project.
Totally false. We haven’t received any funds from any national or international NGOs. The government’s move is to discredit our movement. Narayanasamy said the centre has cancelled the FCRA of three NGOs. Who are they? The government should examine their accounts to see how they spent the money if there was suspicion that they supported us. Without evidence, they are raising wild allegations. I have sent legal notice to the Prime Minister. It’s unfortunate that such allegations are being raised against an organisation that is working for public cause. When the government makes such serious allegations it should also provide some proof.

There is an allegation that your organisation is funding fishermen who have not been going for fishing to ensure their participation in the agitation.
It is not true that the agitating local villagers are not engaged in any gainful work. They “boycotted” fishing only in September for 12 days. After that, they have been engaged in fishing, running their shops, beedi rolling and all their routine livelihood activities. They stay away from work only when there is a major event.
They all support the agitation through small contributions. Ours is not a high profile protest extravaganza like the ones organised by the Congress or the BJP. We don’t offer biryani or liquor or other expensive inducements. We just provide drinking water. We don’t hire expensive halls to stage our meetings or protests; instead we have made a modest “pandal,” which was a one time investment. We also have our own sound system. Therefore we don’t have major recurring expenses.
Ours is a simple Gandhian struggle. The Congress and the BJP don’t know how to wage such a struggle — that is why they are making such wild allegations. Whenever we travel, we hire a taxi. We don’t live in lu
xurious hotels and don’t eat luxurious meals. We strictly adhere to Gandhian principles. The Congress knows only rich Gandhis.
People do contribute. To give you an example, at the rally in Chennai, we were short of funds and people immediately chipped in and collected Rs. 41,000. At the protest location, we have a committee of 20 people which handles our finances. We are more than willing to share our accounts if anybody wants to see them.

Another allegation is that the Catholic Church is behind your agitation. Is it true?
First of all, it is a false propaganda that the Church is supporting us. The only connection we have with the Church is that we live in the parish priest’s house. No church or bishop has given us money. It is a 90 percent christian village and therefore there will be a lot of Christians – it’s inevitable. I am myself a Hindu and there are two more Hindus in our core committee. There is even an RSS worker who is part of the committee. This is a local struggle, a struggle by local community and when 90 percent of them are Christians, you will definitely see them around. And you just cannot term it a Christian struggle because of that and attribute motives. It is not about Christians, Hindus or Muslims, it’s about people. It’s disparaging to identify them with religions.
Ironically, the RSS and the Hindu Munnani raise massive amounts of money in Christian countries.

The Ce
ntral government has tightened noose around certain NGOs which are fighting against the nuclear plant; activists too have stepped up their fight

SP Udayakumar, heading the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) opposing the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant, today threatened to launch a legal battle against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his charge that he was receiving funds from the US and Scandinavian based NGOs to spearhead the stir.
Talking to newspersons here, the Anti-nuclear activist said that he would issue legal notice to Prime Minister, Union Minister of state for Parliamentary Affairs V Narayanasamy and former Union Minister E V K S Elangovan for their baseless charges.
He said the Prime Minister and Mr Narayanasamy charged him with getting funds from US and Scandinavian based NGOs, while Elangovan had alleged that he had served three months imprisonment in the US after getting convicted in a drug case and received a sum of Rs nine crore from a foreign NGO.
When Mr Narayanasamy levelled a similar charge couple of months ago, he had served him a legal notice, to which, the Union Minister's counsel denied that the Minister charged him with receiving money from foreign countries.
Mr Narayanansamy, in his reply to the legal notice, however, made a fresh charge that he (Mr Udayakumar) was involved in a financial transaction with 'IDEA', a Sweden based NGO, for serving as a counsel for reconciliation.
Denying the charges, Mr Udayakumar said 'we are truthful to our cause and the government should understand the plight of the people. The government should stop ridiculing the stir.' Replying to a question, he said he was consulting his lawyers and would file the case against the Prime Minister, Mr Narayanasamy and Mr Elangovan in Madras High court after receiving replies to his legal notice. Mr Udayakumar claimed that the anti-nuclear stir received support from various political parties, including MDMK,PMK, VCK and Naam Tamizhar Katchi.
Asked what could be the way out for the impasse, the activist said 'closing down of the nuclear plant is the only way out.' The authorities should convert the Koodankulam plant as a gas based power plant, he said.
The deportation of German national, Sonntag Rainer Hermann proves that he was innocent and had not funded the anti-nuclear struggles, the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which is heading the anti-Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) struggle at Idinthakarai, said.
Hermann was detained by security agencies from a lodge at Nagercoil on Monday night and was deported on Tuesday morning. S P Udayakumar, convener of PMANE told media persons on Tuesday that Hermann was an anti-nuclear activist, who participated in all anti-nuclear struggles across the globe.
He was present during the struggles at Jaitapur in Maharastra and had visited Kudankulam two years ago. However, he was not involved in any funding, he said. "Through such measures, the Centre is trying to prove its claim that anti-nuclear struggles are funded by foreign powers. The deporting of Hermann itself proves he was innocent and had he been involved in such funding, he would have been detained in India," Udayakumar said. "The Central government and Atomic Energy Commission are spreading false propaganda to tarnish the image of agitators at Kudankulam," he charged.
Meanwhile, R S Lal Mohan from Conservation of Nature Trust, Nagercoil, with whom officials claimed the German was associated with, has also stressed that if the government had proof that Hermann supported the agitation by funding Rs 500 crore, it should have detained him in India.
In a statement to the media, Mohan said Hermann was a nature lover and called him a few times to inform him about the dolphins and other nature-related issues. "He discussed the nature and tree planting movement and was an ordinary tourist living on his own money. He was a frugal man living a simple life with the earnings he saved as a computer technologist. He used to spend his retired life in India, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.
He used to stay in low-budget hotels because he couldn't afford expensive accommodation," the release said. Hermann had a high degree of social consciousness and it was wrong to think he supported the anti-Kudankulam agitation, Mohan stressed. He also criticised the way he was handled by the security agencies."

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