Shifting the debate over the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project from nuclear risk perception to the “Emergency-like” suppression of democracy and civil liberties of the local population of Idinthakarai, a panel of civil society activists on Monday urged the Centre and State government to give up their confrontationist approach and start a dialogue with the affected people.

Addressing a press conference to make public the report of a jury headed by Justice A.P. Shah, former Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, that conducted public hearings on the suppression of democratic rights in Kudankulam, the panel called for immediate revocation of 247 FIRs lodged against peaceful protesters on charges such as sedition, waging war against the State and creating enmity among Asian nations.

M.G. Devasahayam said that the foisting of such charges, cutting off supply of essentials and paralysing public transport and other services amounted to gross and heinous violation of human rights and smacked of autocracy. Democracy was a far more precious gift than generating a few megawatts of power for the sake of development and needed to be protected and preserved.

The panel, which lent support to the Chennai Solidarity Group for the Kudankulam Struggle, also wanted the government to make available the information on doubts expressed by the affected people and the safety and site evaluation report as directed by the Central Information Commission, the National Human Rights Commission and its State-level apparatus, for taking cognisance of the violations at Idinthakarai.

It wanted a mock drill conducted as a confidence building measure among the local population.

Geeta Ramaseshan, advocate, Madras High Court, said the focus of the fight at present was against the steamrollering by the State of the Constitutional right to protest and express dissent through the use of the criminal law apparatus.

Prabha Kalvimani, representing the Irular Tribes Protection Association, deplored the repressive manner in which the State had dealt with the anti-Kudankulam stir, which was an epic and totally peaceful struggle led predominantly by women that had now crossed 294 days.

V. Vasanthi Devi, educationist, said the stir against the nuclear plant was only to seek the safety of the local population but in the larger interest of future generations and the protection of the environment.

The anti-Kudankulam activists plan to submit petitions before human rights bodies at the Centre and State, launch a signature mobilisation campaign and explore legal means to have the FIRs quashed.

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