18 May 2011

Rally Against N-Plant At Jaitapur: Harassment All The Way

The three-day yatra organised by different civil society groups, saw the participation of about 100 people, but at the same time was marred by detentions, harassment and arrests of the yatris by the state authorities. The yatra which started from Tarapur, the site of India's first nuclear reactors, was to reach Jaitapur eventually in Ratnagiri district, where India's largest nuclear project is being planned.

The yatra did not just see people and groups from Maharashtra, but saw people from across the country participating. The yatra saw social activists such as Vaishali Patil of Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi Samiti, Banwarilal Sharma, HM Desarda, environmentalists, former Navy Chief Admiral L. Ramdas, former Supreme Court and Bombay High Court Judges P.B. Sawant and B.G. Kolse-Patil, academicians and students, all coming together to express solidarity with the people in Jaitapur who have been fighting against the project for five years.
There were five of us, from Haripur, who went in solidarity with people in Jaitapur. Haripur is also reeling under pressure, with the government giving a go ahead to build a nuclear power plant, which would affect lakhs of people and cause huge-scale displacement.
There was a lot of enthusiasm among the yatris, but at the same time, future was uncertain with the recent firing and death of a protestor in Jaitapur, a day earlier.
Day One, 23 April, Saturday- The rally began in Tarapur, under the heavy deployment of police personnel. The rally was addressed by speakers ranging from activists, retired judges and scientists. As the yatra began, the police decided to break up the yatra and detain all of us in Boisar near Tarapur for eight hours without stating the reason. 135 activists were detained for the whole day, and we were let off only at night. Not just that, they bullied the drivers of the two hired buses carrying the yatris into abandoning the trip.
When the police said they would have to detain us till any communication from Mantralaya, we sat on a hunger strike to protest what they called “unjust detention.”
Knowing the fact that we will be detained again, we decided to move in small groups and reach Pen in Raigad district.
Day Two, 24 April, Sunday-All of us reached Pen after a lot of harassment. Interrupting a rally in the morning there, the police detained us again for violating prohibitory orders imposed on Saturday night. Some were arrested and all of us detained for the whole day – under Section 68 of the Bombay Police Act. The repression from the administration thus continued unabated, in the likelihood of a ‘law and order problem’.

Day Three, 25 April, Monday- In a final crackdown on the yatra, the police arrested 13 activists on the last day of the three-day campaign. They were arrested from Shivaji Chowk after they had garlanded Shivaji's statue. They were booked under Section 37 (3) of the Bombay Police Act (prohibiting assembly or procession). All of us were detained and all were booked under bailable offences. The yatra never reached Jaitapur because of persistent detentions of demonstrators at every step. 10 persons, mostly Gandhians decided to go ahead and go to Jaitapur.

Even though the yatra could not complete its entire leg, what it did achieve was to bring people across states and professions together and demand, ‘nuclear energy is unacceptable’. For all of us from Haripur, we take back a lot from this journey. Talking about our struggle with other yatris, most others believed that the Haripur struggle is one of the strongest movements against nuclear energy in the country. Support from other groups renewed our strength to continue our struggle and make it even stronger.

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