Thursday, June 07, 2012

‘Inquiry into rights violations in Koodankulam’

(Published in Millennium Post on 6 June, 2012, retrieved from http://millenniumpost.in/NewsContent.aspx?NID=3510)



Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has promised there will be an inquiry into the alleged human rights violations at the site of the Koodankulam Nuclear Plant in Tirunelveli district, where villagers and activists have been agitating against the plant.
A report on the protests, released by an independent committee on Monday, indicates that there were human rights violations in the Centre and State governments’ handling of the demonstrations.
The report was prepared on the basis of a public hearing held by the committee in Chennai on May 14. The hearing was headed by former Chief Justice of the Madras and Delhi High courts, Justice A P Shah. Other members included advocate Geeta Ramaseshan and Prabha Kalvimani of Irular Tribes Protection Association.
The report found that people’s right to freedom of speech and movement were severely hampered, and that the state police harassed the protesters.
The document, titled ‘Report of the Jury on the Public Hearing on Koodankulam and State Suppression of Democratic Rights’, asked the Centre to release information on the site evaluation and safety aspects of the nuclear power plant, going by the orders of the Central Information Commission (CIC). Its other recommendations were:
(a)    Dropping of more than 250 criminal cases registered against the organisers and participants of the anti-nuclear agitation, most of which are for sedition and waging war against the nation.
(b)   Release of protesters who have been arrested, as “they were only exercising a legitimate right to protest”.
(c)    Lifting of curbs on the free movement of citizens under Section 144 of the CrPC.
(d)   Resuming of talks with the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which is heading the protests.
(e)   Action against the vandals who damaged a school run by the family of a protest organiser.
(f)     Restoration of public transport.
(g)    Disclosure of details of the India-Russia agreement, under which the Rs. 13,000 crore plant is being constructed.
Since the Fukushima disaster in Japan, there have been protests against the construction of what will be India’s largest atomic power plant. Villagers say the plant is a threat to their lives as well as the ecology, which in turn would affect the livelihood of fishermen.
Two government-appointed committees of experts have submitted reports saying the plant is safe. In November last year, former President and top nuclear scientist APJ Abdul Kalam visited the plant and gave it the green flag in his inspection report.
However, none of this has satisfied the protesters, who are still demanding the closure of the plant and holding hunger strikes.
Following the release of the report, the Chennai Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Struggle questioned the silence of the National Human Rights Commission and the State Human Rights Commission on the conduct of the police and district administration.
When Jayalalithaa was asked about the situation by reporters during a press conference held upon her return to Chennai from Delhi, the Chief Minister assured them that there would be an inquiry into the alleged violations.

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