The Global Digest



Opinion

NAPM condemns the high-handedness of UCIL and Andhra Authorities



Dr. Babu Rao

Detention and prevention of activists from participating in public meeting on ‘uranium mining impacts’ at Kadapa, Unlawful and Undemocratic... UCIL-BARC must come clean on its operations and ensure that all its activities are subject to strict environmental and legal regulations

10th April, 2018: National Alliance of People’s Movements strongly condemns the high-handedness of the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), a Govt. of India undertaking under the Department of Atomic Energy (headed by the Prime Minister) and the Andhra Pradesh police in misbehaving with activists of Human Rights Forum and NAPM and denying them access to the venue of a public meet yesterday in Kadapa District of Andhra Pradesh by unlawfully detaining them for a couple of hours.

The team that was arbitrarily detained on their way to the UCIL (where the meeting was called) and taken to Vemula police station included septuagenarian Dr. Babu Rao; eminent scientist and environmentalist (HRF-NAPM), Adv. Jayasree Kakumani of Human Rights Forum and Rajesh Serupally, NAPM. It was only after intense protest by the activists and villagers and an immediate letter by EAS Sarma, Former Secretary, Govt. of India to the Collector, Kadapa and Mr. Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, that Dr. Babu Rao was allowed to participate in meeting with nuclear scientists and officials from UCIL and BARC. However, the other activists were kept in unlawful detention and released only late into the night at around 9 pm. All of them were made to sign papers stating that they would not indulge in such 'anti-social activities that disturb peace', which they did, under protest signatures. Media entry to the meeting site as also restricted. Interestingly, this ‘awareness meeting’, had to be held at a neutral place but was called for within the UCIL premises itself.

In response to the series of complaints and protests by the villagers and some intervention, at people’s behest, by Mr. Y.S Avinash Reddy, the YSR-CP MP representing Kadapa constituency in the Parliament, the UCIL authorities consented to ‘meet’ the villagers to ‘create awareness’ and address their queries and demands. Since much of the terminology used by UCIL is generally technical, the villagers approached activists associated with HRF, NAPM and other people’s groups to attend the meeting on 9th April, along with them, to have a more effective interaction with the officers of UCIL & Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), in a better way. Thus, to deny access to public-spirited persons who came to participate in the meeting, at the invite and request of villagers is totally undemocratic and brazenly disempowering. If the UCIL can take the aid of BARC’s scientists, so can the villagers tae assistance of independent scientists and activists. To deny people this right is arbitrary and unacceptable. It may be noted that the Tummalapalle mine in Kadapa district is estimated to hold one of the largest reserves of uranium in the world, catering to fuel requirements of nuclear power plants. While the UCIL obtained clearance from the Centre in 2006, mine operations began around 2012. Not surprisingly, locals state that land acquisition for the plant was done in a coercive manner and public hearings before the environmental clearance witnessed protests and police action against villagers.

Over the past couple of years, the villagers of Mabbuchintilapalli, KK Kotala, Bhumayagaripalli and Kanumalavaripalem, residing barely 6 kms away from the mine and processing plant at Tummalapalle, have been repeatedly protesting against UCIL, complaining of plummeting underground water levels, due to relentless pumping and drastic increase in sodium and uranium, leading to air, soil, ground and surface water contamination. Reportedly, this pollution has been happening due to poor lining for the tailing pond, causing seepage. The cumulative impacts of the plant operations in the form of damage to agriculture and standing crop, water, health of local population (skin allergies, ulcers and kidney problems) and livestock (illnesses ad pre-mature deaths), alleged negligence by contractor and plant authorities is a saga of continuing anguish and anger. Apparently, quite a few villagers have had to ‘vacate’ their houses, due to these impacts. There is widespread fear in the region of the long-terms implications of radiation, making the place another ‘Jaduguda’.

We have learnt that water samples collected by local farmers from their tube wells and tested at the labs of Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology (C-MET), an autonomous scientific body under the Govt. of India, produced results indicating significant increase in uranium and sodium levels, much higher than the permissible and standard level. Besides, in December 2016, researchers from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU), Anantapur, analysed samples of water and soil and noted increased levels of barium, arsenic, cobalt, chromium, copper, molybdenum, lead, vanadium and yttrium, which could impact crop productivity and local environment. This study was also published in the International Journal of Advanced Research. It is now well-established that heavy metals, if consumed in large quantities, may lead to severe health issues, including cancers, respiratory and kidney complications. Instead of addressing all these concerns, the UCIL recently issued an advertisement in newspapers claiming that a “few individuals and NGOs are spreading wrong information against the organization”, in a way indicating that all is not well with its operations. Clearly, such a public announcement, detention and denial of access to civil society activists, is more a measure to discredit and muzzle voices that are raising uncomfortable and important questions, in public interest.

UCIL’s operations in Kadapa, is yet another classic case of weak post-clearance monitoring by the authorities, especially the Pollution Control Board (PCB) and the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF & CC). NAPM demands that the UCIL must ensure full disclosure of all necessary information in the public domain and in a manner discernable to the local population. It must immediately comply with all conditions stipulated at the time of project clearance including payment of full and fair compensation for all forms of losses and impacts incurred by the local population due to UCIL operations. PCB and MoEF must undertake an immediate visit, comprehensive assessment and rigorous monitoring of the present status of environmental compliance (or lack of it) and conduct a post-clearance public audit and hearing. These monitoring authorities should also be ready to issue and impose orders of cessation of operations, if violations are found. National Alliance of People’s Movements.
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Academics, Activists Condemn Police, RSS Outfit Violence Against Dalits in Kerala’s Vadayampady



Dalits protest

Dalits have been fighting against ‘a caste wall’ built around the community space in their neighbourhood in Vadyampady for over a year now. Representative image. Credit: PTI New Delhi: Around 50 academics and activists on Thursday released a statement condemning the police and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-sponsored violence against Dalits in Vadayampady in Kerala. For over a year now, Dalits have been fighting against ‘a caste wall’ built around the community space in their neighbourhood in Vadyampady, east of Kochi.

On February 6, 2018, six RSS activists were arrested for allegedly threatening noted Malayalam poet Kureepuzha Sreekumar in Kollam district when he was returning after addressing a gathering at a function on February 5 night. Sreekumar had expressed his solidarity with Dalit protestors. The issue was raised in the Kerala assembly on Tuesday, and chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office directed the police to take action and conduct a probe into the incident. Read the full text of the statement below.

Statement Condemning Violence Unleashed by the Police and the RSS Outfits Against Dalits in Vadayampady

We the undersigned express our grave concern over the brutal violence unleashed by the State Police and the RSS outfits against the Dalits in Vadayampady in Kerala. Dalits in Vadayampady are protesting over a year now against the ‘Caste Wall’ built by the upper caste blocking Dalits from entering into the common space/playground used by the public for decades. The peaceful protest by Dalits against the wall of exclusion is met with brutal attacks by the police force of the state commanded by CPI-M led left government, as well as by the upper caste in the locality led by the RSS. It is indeed shocking that the police manhandled and arrested those who went to Vadayampady in solidarity, and also to participate in Dalit Self Respect Convention, including well-known activists and writers such as K.K. Kochu, K M Salim Kumar, C S Murali, Mrudula Devi Saidharan, Dr. Dhanya Madhav, Dr. P G Hari, KK Baburaj, and Gomathi Augustine of Pembillai Orumai.

Ironically, the police acted as spectators when the RSS attacked the Dalit protesters. The violence in Vadayampady is one among the several recent instances of the police brutality and connivance in the RSS led onslaught against Dalit protestors and media reporters in the state. It is alarming that even the state police forces commanded by a left government is colluding with the right wing religious extremists to protect the interest of the upper caste, their illegal claims and acts of social segregation. This and the subsequent inaction by the law enforcing agencies had enabled a vacuum in law and order leading to physical and verbal assault against poet Kureepuzha Sreekumar by the RSS outfits on his way back to his home after declaring his solidarity with the Dalit protesters. We strongly condemn the attack on Kureepuzha Sreekumar.

We are also concerned about the cold response of the government and the left parties who attempt to side-line the police violence as a ‘minor issue’. CPI-M and other left parties in the government are supposed to be part of the progressive forces of the country. But it is felt that the Dalit-Adivasi agitators are often portrayed by even the dominant left as Maoists/anarchists/terrorists in their attempt to strategically delegitimise the Dalit-Adivasi Struggles. We are afraid that this would result in the weakening of fight against various social injustices while increasing the attack on the marginalised groups in the country. The current Dalit struggle in Vadayampady which has been ongoing for more than a year has roots in how Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalized groups in Kerala have been discriminated against accessing public places, and deprived of land and resources by both left and right wing governments. We feel strongly than ever now that the situation of state forces colluding with right wing religious forces unleashing violence against Dalit protesters in Kerala is equally alarming that of the cases of from elsewhere from the country and needs to be resisted. We call forth all the progressive forces in the country and beyond to contempt and challenge the increasing violence against the Dalits and urge those agencies whose mandate to uphold the values and rights promised in the constitution to take steps to bring the culprits before the law in a befitting manner.

Signatories: Ruth Manorama, National Convenor, National Federation of Dalit Women, Delhi, Anand Teltumbde, Writer, political analyst and civil rights activist with CPDR, Maharashtra, Gajendran Ayyathurai, Postdoctoral Fellow and Study Advisor, Centre for Modern Asian Studies, University of Gottingen, Germany, Sharika Thiranagama, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University, United States, Virginius Xaxa, Professor of Eminence, Tezpur University, Assam, M. Kunhaman, Professor, TISS, Mumbai, Rupa Viswanath, Professor, Centre for Modern Asian Studies, University of Gottingen, Germany, A.K. Ramakrishnan, Professor, School of International Studies, JNU, Delhi, K. Satyanarayana, Professor, EFLU, Hyderabad, Sanal Mohan, Associate Professor, School of Social Sciences and Hon. Director, IUCSSRE MG University, Kerala, Asha Kowtal, General Secretary, Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, M. Amruth, Historian and Sociologist, KFRI, Thrissur, Kerala, T.M. Yesudasan, Retired Professor and Writer, Kerala, K.S. Madhavan, Writer, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Calicut, Cynthia Stephen, Writer and Researcher, Sylvia Karpagam, Public health doctor and researcher., Ravichandran Bhathran, Founder of Dalit Camera, Karthik Navayan Batulla, Writer, Human Rights Activist, Irfan Engineer, Director of CSSS, Mumbai, Sruthi Herbert, SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom, M.B. Manoj, Assistant Professor, Department of Malayalam, University of Calicut, Vikramaditya Thakur, Assistant Professor, University of Delaware, United States, Rekha Raj, Programme Manager-Women Rights, Amnesty International, Bengaluru, Rajesh Komath, Assistant Professor, School of Social Science, MG University, Kottayam, Parthasarathi Muthukaruppan, Assistant Professor, EFLU, Hyderabad, Sumeet Mhaskar, Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Student Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University , Delhi., Abhilash Thadathil, Assistant Professor, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, Mythri Prasad-Aleyamma, Associate Fellow, Institute of Human Development, New Delhi, Anish Vanaik, Assistant Professor, O.P. Jindal Global University, Delhi, Varsha Ayyar, Assistant Professor, Centre for Labour Studies, TISS, Mumbai, T.V. Sajeev, Scientist, KFRI, Thrissur, Brahmaputhran, Daya Hospital, Thrissur, Prashanth Bansode, Associate Professor, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune, Satheesh Kumar, Assistant Professor, History, University College, Thiruvananthapuram, M.V. Bijulal, School of International Relations and Politics, MG University, Kottayam, N. Gopakumaran Nair, HoD, History, University College, Thiruvananthapuram, K.M. Sheeba, Associate Professor, Department of History, Sree Sankaracharya University, Kalady, Kerala, Dickens Leonard M, Guest faculty, Univ. of Hyderabad., Mythri P.U., School of Distance Education, University of Calicut, Manju E.P. PhD Research Scholar, Univ. of Hyderabad, Sanjay Kumar Paswan, Independent research consultant for social sector agencies, Patna, R. Manohar, Regional Coordinator, Human Rights Defenders Alert India, Dr K. Babu Rao, Human Rights Forum, Hyderabad, Sukla Sen, Peace Activist, Mumbai, Subhash Gatade, New Socialist Initiative, Siddharth, Independent Researcher, Bengaluru, Jayaseelan Raj, Assistant Professor, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, Maya K.S, Writer, PhD Research Scholar, Christ College, University of Calicut, Kerala, Prameela, Assistant Professor, Sanskrit Sahitya, Sree Sankaracharya University, Kerala, Jentle Varghese, Guest Lecturer, Government College, Kottayam, Kerala, Chandran Komath, Assistant Professor, Government College, Kottayam, Kerala,
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BURMA OPTIONS

Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(dictatorwatch)
Jan 20, 2018

Kachin soldiers

Everybody goes on and on about how complicated the situation in Burma is, but when you boil it down there are only four options. The first is just to accept things as they are, a Burman dictatorship and now with Aung San Suu Kyi as its spokesperson. This means continuing racism and attacks in the country’s ethnic nationality homelands, and low-grade but never-ending repression everywhere else, including against the media.

But, while the Burma Army will carry on buying new weapons systems, the ethnic armed organizations will never disarm, and the Civil War will endure. The generals will never be able to impose their will such that the resistance is defeated. With this status quo, the refugee and IDP crises will never be resolved. Economic development will further never take off. The people will remain impoverished.

The second option is renewed popular uprising, in combination with the ethnic resistance. Particularly when Suu Kyi is gone, the people may finally decide that enough is enough. This would have the two-fold benefit that all the different groups in the country would be united, and the likelihood, not only the possibly, that the regime would be overthrown. If everyone works together, the dictatorship can be vanquished in short order.

The third option is that some of the ethnic nationalities on their own declare independence. This possibility reflects the fact that the Burman dictators will never willingly cede power, and also the prospect that through offensive guerrilla warfare the Burma Army can be expelled from their homelands. This option currently applies for the most part to the members of the Northern Alliance Burma, and looking at the map it is easy to envision both Kachin and Shan States separating and becoming new, free countries - federal democracies in their own right.

The fourth option follows from the third. Were the Northern groups to declare independence, many of the other resistance armies around the country might follow suit. One or a few freedom struggles could transform into the long-awaited national liberation revolution. If the people then took to the streets as well, including the Burman general public, this would effectively duplicate option two and the country would soon be free.

The generals and Suu Kyi have made their choice clear - option one. We await the day when the people are determined to fight without compromise for their democratic aspirations. Note: For option three, please see my recent statement, Break up Burma?
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Changing Times for Intellectuals and Activists in India

Special Contribution
By Pushkar Raj

Dr. MM Kalburgi (75) was shot dead in his residence

Intellectuals and activists are the conscience of a society but they face a crisis of survival in the country today as Gauri Lankesh’s killing last month demonstrates. Gauri is the fourth intellectual activist who was silenced through a murder.

Earlier, Narendra Dabholkar, a rationalist activist, was killed in August 2013 for his activism against superstitions such as black magic and child sacrifice followed by Govind Pansare, a left-wing politician, writer of Shivaji Kon Hota, in 2015 for revealing secular side of Maratha icon Shivaji. Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi was also killed in the same year for hurting Hindu sentiments signaling a message of strangulation for those who live by thinking, writing and speaking.

The people close to the ideology of Hindutva are suspected to be behind these killings as the intellectuals are considered a threat by them. Kalburgi and Gauri had more than a dozen cases filed against them in different courts by various radical Hindu groups. After the death of Gauri, a BJP member of the Karnataka state legislature suggested that if she had not criticized Sangh Parivar, she would still be alive.

Ideologies create a fixated worldview

Ideologies, by definition and practice restrict thought within bounds- be it of time or space- therefore, at times, tending to be highly irrational and destructive for example, communalism, fascism, maoism and nationalism , to name a few. Hindutava too falls in the same category and its adherents have a flat Worldview rooted in myths and Manusmriti, an ancient text similar to other religions’ treatises.

A writer however, goes beyond ideologies, travelling with time, seeking truth, challenging, explaining and expressing social reality through what he lives by – writing and speaking. In the words of famous Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, the writer creates “new values” for a society. However the status quo forces such as Hindutva do not appreciate this role of the writer, so when Kancha Illiah argues that Hindutva promotes social smuggling, or Kalburgi, reveals a disconnect between Lingayatism and Hinduism, the followers of Hindutva resort to intimidating, harassing and finally purging the intellectual.

Constitution under threat

Jawaharlal Nehru wrote The Discovery of India in the 1940s, underlining a set of new values on which later the Indian constitution was based becoming a shared and supreme ideology of all the citizens of the new republic. Barring the Emergency (1975-77) writers wrote, as Jean-Paul Sartre held, “to exist and express their freedom.” They enjoyed freedom of conscience and fulfilled, to repeat Sartre again, their “moral and ethical responsibilities of observing the social political moments, and to freely speak to their society.” However, the writers are in a peculiar bind today. On one hand, society is so radicalized that as a social class they are perceived as a threat, and on the other, the constitution of the country is unable to protect them because those guiding its implementation do not fully believe in it. Addressing its lawyers’ wing last week, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat stressed that the constitution should be changed according to the ethos of the country.

Thinking of the state of intellectuals in India today, one is reminded of Turkey about a decade ago in 2006, when noble laureate, Orhan Pamuk was charged, with “insulting Turkishness” for referring to the Armenian genocide of 1915-17, which the nationalist government denies. It was the beginning of AKP’s rise under Recep Tayyip Erdogan gradually leading to total crackdown on dissent. Today hundreds of writers, journalists and activists, including country director and chairman of board of Amnesty International, Idil Eser and Taner Kilic are in jail. With 5.1 per cent average ‘development’, Erdogan regime is holding nearly total control over media and Internet and in the words of Pamuk, the writer of Istanbul, “so many crazy, unacceptable things are happening”. The ruling party though maintains that Turkey is a secular parliamentary democracy as envisioned by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (father of Turks). Thinking of a decade ahead, one is inclined to ask, will India become like present-day Turkey? It is a cynical but relevant question.
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