He is the face of the anti-nuclear protests in Kudankulam. S.P. Udayakumar tells Meera Srinivasan that the movement has its limitations when confronting government
There is something persuasive about the way S.P. Udayakumar speaks.
Not surprising, therefore, that he should be the voice of the anti-nuclear protests at Kudankulam where locals treat him like a messiah.
Attired in a sky-blue shirt with sleeves folded to three-quarters length and a black and blue checked lungi, he meets us at the home of Jesuraj, priest attached to the church in Kuthanguli — the fishing hamlet adjoining Idinthakarai. His trimmed beard shows clear signs of greying, his metal-frame glasses and poise — these make for a charming cross between an academician and an activist. “I feel vulnerable outside these two (Idinthakarai and Kuthanguli) villages,” he says.
At a time when his battle in Kudankulam is losing steam and beginning to prove futile, he observes: “Our movement [People’s Movement Against Nuclear Power] may be going strong in opposing nuclear power, but it cannot do much while opposing governments.” All the same he feels reassured that the movement is now “spreading to neighbouring states.”
“I don't really know if and when the plant will be commissioned. The fact that we are a headache for the pro-nuclear establishment is our victory,” he adds, just a couple of weeks ahead of the slated commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear plant. Udayakumar’s camp is hoping that the ongoing legal proceedings will delay the commissioning to some extent.
Just as you wonder if there was a tinge of resignation in his voice, he speaks of a series of protests and demonstrations planned almost all through December, spilling over into January. “Activists from all over India are coming soon. There is another demonstration planned with political parties that support us.” According to him, it is the failure of elected representatives to engage with the locals that allowed someone like him to step in. All they want, he says, is someone who will listen to them.
“Until now, we protested in a peaceful manner upholding our principle of non-violence. But if governments do not respect that, the message going out to youngsters is that henceforth, only Maoism will work in India.”