You can also see the main Idinthakarai village besides the Kudankulam village you would pass through to reach here. Now we hear that there is no plan whatsoever to take the waste from KKNPP to KGF. So where will they be kept? We are aware that the sea could be a possible dumping yard, as has been done in many countries. Then what will happen to the wealth of life in the oceans?
We are now the owners of a few adjectives. Seditionists, anti-nationals and goons are terms used to refer us. It is when we have asked questions based on the above scary and vague news and facts that we have been called so. What would you all have done? Would you be able to live peacefully in your homes, in places where your ancestors have lived for centuries knowing that there is danger and death? Would you not resist and react if you are aware that there are super specialty diseases lurking in the atmosphere and soil, in the water and food, not to speak of in the milk and blood that flows in your body?
Though we have asked these questions over and over again, we reiterate this as no one has answered them till date.
We have been accused of receiving foreign funds. This makes us laugh. It is a portion of the money that we earn by rolling beedis, fishing in the sea and fish vending that goes into the funds that has made the struggle. We have had generous support from friends and movements elsewhere who know the value of the movement and our concerns. In spite of the fact that all our life is available for scrutiny like an open book, why are we being unfairly accused?
Now, we ask the questions again as some shocking news has reached us. Our friends Sundari, Xavierammal and Selvi who were arrested and taken away to Trichy jail on September 10 have been denied bail with many more charges against them.
So now we have a whole set of questions looming large in our minds. The first and most important one: what is the crime that we did? Is it wrong to assemble peacefully on the seashore that belongs to us and resist a so-called development program that does not belong to us and which will harm our very existence? Is it a crime to wish for a peaceful, healthy life with your family making a living from the ocean? Is it wrong to go unarmed and unprepared to face the atrocities of the police force that were unleashed on us three months back? Then we agree we have all done wrong.
We have nothing to ask or say if our dear friends and many other brothers have been detained for protesting peacefully against a threat to their existence. It is sad that every time Selvi, Xavierammmal and Sundari are brought to court, fresh charges are slapped on them, with Sundari’s charges rising to 70, including sedition.
Imagine her, the short and energetic Sundari who wishes to buy a good sari, cook a tasty meal for her two children, grow green chillies and curry leaves in her compact courtyard, collect water from the tanker, pluck jasmine flowers and make a garland for her daughter, take a walk in the village and meet her friends to gossip- does she look like a seditionist to you? She says it is only now that she has heard such a word. Most of us have heard such words only recently. It amazes, shocks and angers us to know that some of the men arrested – simple fishermen have been charged under the Goondas Act. Are they goondas to have wished to pursue their traditional fishing occupation, to dream about a nice house, to earn enough to educate their children? If so we wish to be called so.
We are witnesses to the death of democracy and transparency in our country. In our state, Tamil Nadu, many of us have maintained strong political affiliations and worked hard so that this region would flourish under strong leaders. Now we feel abandoned and forsaken. We need support and strength to raise these crucial questions that are going to jeopardize the life of millions in the country, who work hard in the soil and sea and bring the fruits of their labor to the majority. It is their land and water that is being appropriated, pushing them more and more into poverty and destitution. It is their self-reliance and self-respect that is being taken away so that they will become helpless and hapless refugees? If speaking for one’s rights is what you call anti-national, let it be so. We can’t forget the broken voice of Xavierammal who on Aug 15th 2012 shouted from the stage: “We will reinstate, we will reinstate, India’s Democracy”.
If shouting and mourning the death of democracy is anti- national in a country that claims to be one of the world’s largest democracies, then call us so. We are not talking or resisting a single nuclear power plant. But we are raising questions and demanding clarifications about policies and programs meant for the people that harm the people. If it is against the nation to do all this, we accept the adjectives wholeheartedly.
But we will not agree to this. Nor would we surrender our right to question and react. Because we know that if we do it now, the coming generations will remember us as a generation of cowards and traitors. They will condemn us as people who compromised on truth, honesty and integrity for a few megawatts of electricity, for a few votes and power, for the security of just one generation of people. No, we would like to be remembered as people who stood by justice and a way of life close to the sea and earth, for working hard and earning an honest meal. For this we are willing to accept all the adjectives - seditionists, goondas, foreign agents and anti-nationals.
(As narrated to this citizen journalist by women protesters after hearing that their colleague Sundari has been charged with 4 cases of sedition)