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Why is disagreement, dissent seditious?: Tamil Nadu anti-nuclear campaigner complains

Counterview Desk
SP Udayakumar, well-known anti-nuclear campaigner, in a letter to the President of India has said that he and his colleagues have been branded as “urban-Naxals, Maoists, anti-Indians, seditious, separatists, foreign stooges and so forth”, even though they have advocated non-violent struggle.
Coordinator, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which lead the anti-Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) struggle, his and his wife’s bank accounts have been frozen, their passports seized, and there is constant police vigil on their movements, he said.
Asking the President to urgently intervene, he added, this state of affairs has come about because, as ‘ordinary citizens’ of India, having a mind of their own and thinking through government’s policies and programmes, he and his colleagues have taken “a clear stand against setting up nuclear power plants in their communities”.

Text of the letter

May I bring your kind attention to the Indian state’s systematic violation of my fundamental and Constitutionally-guaranteed rights and entitlements and request your immediate intervention in this matter please.
My name is SP Udayakumar and I am from the southernmost tip of India, Kanyakumari. Losing three of my loving grandparents to the cruel disease of cancer, I took an early dislike for sea-sand mining, nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons and other such projects that give rise to radiation and cause cancers. As a result, I became an avowed anti-nuclear activist. I have been writing, speaking and organizing against the Indian government’s undemocratic scheme of dragging us all toward nuclear annihilation.
With my long years of anti-nuclear activism, I happened to lead the anti-Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) struggle that has been completely nonviolent, peaceful and democratic. But the UPA government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh tried to crush our struggle by falsely accusing us of following certain caste and religious affiliations. When they could not win in that treacherous scheme, they started accusing us of receiving foreign funds with innuendos that I was working for the United States and that I was seditious etc.
The NDA government headed by Narendra Modi has been toeing the same line of the UPA government when it comes to nuclear energy, and anti-nuclear struggles and activists. They also brand us all as urban-Naxals, Maoists, anti-Indians, seditious, separatists, foreign stooges and so forth. Most of the state governments in India go out of their way to please the ruling dispensation in Delhi and to protect their own political and pecuniary interests.
The Tamil Nadu government, for instance, filed some 380 cases including sedition, ‘waging war on the State,’ attempt to murder and so forth against me and my colleagues. No one in this country, not even the Honorable Supreme Court, has asked the central and state authorities why a group of nonviolent protestors are considered to be seditious and why our peaceful struggle is deemed to be a ‘war on the Indian State.’
My and my wife’s bank accounts have been frozen for the past seven years. My passport has been impounded and a ‘look out’ notice has been issued to all the ports and airports in the country. My family with my wife, children and aged parents has been constantly harassed by intrusive CIDs and police personnel.
My home has been under the police scanner all the time and I am kept under police surveillance all the 24 hours of the day. Police and intelligence officials come home; call me, my family members, friends and associates all the time; inquire about my movements and activities; and beleaguer those who invite me for any programs and events.
On May 21-22, 2019, I was put under house arrest and later detained in a local police station for a whole day without any arrest warrant whatsoever. I was prevented from attending a religious ceremony held in honor of one Snowlin, a 17-year old girl shot dead along with 12 others in the anti-Sterlite agitation at Thoothukudi on May 22, 2018.
Anti-Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project protest
A colleague of mine, RS Mugilan, has been missing for the past four months and no meaningful steps have been taken to trace him or to explain the mystery behind his disappearance.
On June 11, 2019 when I travelled to Tirunelveli, a neighbouring town, to organize a meeting of anti-nuclear activists, I was harassed and hounded by the state police for no reason. The Tamil Nadu Police does not grant permission to organize any peaceful and nonviolent protest or to organize an agitation against an important public issue. Even if we organize an indoor meeting in a privately-owned hall, the Police intimidate the owner of the hall and foil those meetings.
All these pro-government and pro-corporate but anti-people and anti-democratic measures of the state government and the Indian State as a whole do not augur well for the freedom, independence and human rights of our citizens. May I point out here that I am not a terrorist, nor do I advocate violence, or destroy private or public properties, or provoke melee and mayhem in my local community or anywhere else in the country.
When the ‘ordinary citizens’ of India, who have a mind of their own and think through government’s policies and programmes, take a clear stand against setting up nuclear power plants in their communities, the better privileged and empowered citizens such as myself offer the little knowledge and expertise that we have to assist them. I earnestly believe that this is not an anti-people or anti-national criminal activity. In fact, this kind of solidarity and activism alone nurtures the democratic heritage of our country.
When the State elites sign secretive deals with foreign countries and their corporations, safeguard their personal interests and profits, do not take the people into confidence, and compromise our national interests and our very sovereignty, the civil society members are expected to be silent and subservient. Our disagreement and dissent are deemed to be seditious.
We are treated on par with dreaded terrorists and dangerous criminals. If the state treats peaceful activists and our nonviolent dissension with this kind of contemptuousness, vehemence and terrorization, what is the message we all would be sending to the youth of this country?
All this make me wonder if we are living in a free, independent and democratic country that respects people’s individual freedoms, human rights and dignity. I am also quite puzzled if there is indeed any value for my Indian citizenship anymore and if the Constitutional guarantees offered to me as an Indian citizen are still valid.
May I request you to intervene in my situation and resume my passport, defreeze my and my wife’s bank accounts, and cancel all the false FIRs filed against me and my colleagues as soon as possible please. If my genuine and life-threatening grievances are not addressed immediately, I inform you with all humility and respect that I will embark on a hunger strike from the upcoming Independence Day at the southernmost tip of our country, Kanyakumari, to bring the nation’s attention to this anti-people and anti-democratic situation.
Looking forward to your careful consideration of these undemocratic and authoritarian developments and happenings in our country and your favorable intervention, I send you my best personal regards and all peaceful wishes.
---
Copy of the letter has also been sent to the chairperson, National Human Rights Commission; chairperson, State Human Rights Commission Tamil Nadu; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Geneva; Amnesty International, Bangalore; Human Rights Watch, New York; and People’s Watch, Madurai

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