The Kudankulam script couldn’t have been any different: a “non-violent, peaceful agitation” ending up in an inevitable law-and-order situation that has the Church and thousands of fisherfolk projected as the victims of state oppression.
This is also the end-game, which both parties will want to win.
The state government will handle it as a law-and-order situation while the agitators would want to escalate it into a possible humanitarian crisis with the help of live TV, former judges, former chiefs of armed forces, itinerant activists, journalists, Obama’s daughters and the anti-corruption crusader and politician-in-waiting Arvind Kejriwal.
On Wednesday, with the agitation’s leader SP Udayakumar disappearing to an undisclosed location, it has also become a quasi-guerilla operation. Kejriwal, has openly advised him not to surrender, but to try and obtain anticipatory bail.
The present deadlock is certainly bigger than expected, in terms of the number of people wiling to slug it out. The gathering of the numbers, however, is not a difficult task, given the Church influence on the coastal population. A majority of the fisherfolk in the southern sea-belt of Tuticorin and Kanyakumari are Christians and it is only natural that the Church has a commanding relationship with them.
At the moment, the government’s move will be to wait and manage the crowds on a day-to-day basis while the agitators would want to precipitate an ugly situation. The leaders want to expand its scope by making it a human rights crisis.
The desperation of PMANE (People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy) and its supporters is understandable. They want to stop the plant at any cost, but both the central and state governments are determined to go ahead. It is very clear that the process of the commissioning the plant is irreversible, unless it fails technically. In fact, technical glitches are the only thing that can stop the plant from functioning now.
Meanwhile, Kejriwal literally para-trooping into the middle of the agitation in Idinthakkarai, the headquarters of protestors, appears queer. If he is looking for a political constituency through the agitation, he has made a wrong move. Looking to expand his activist-portfolio is not a bad idea, but politically it’s not going to pay off.
In Tamil Nadu, all the political parties, except the electorally less significant MDMK and PMK, and the people, want Kudankulam to generate power for them. Choked by never-ending power cuts, the small and medium industries are in a deep crisis and households are exhausted. They have even gone to the streets demanding faster commissioning of the plant. Taking a stand against a politically expedient issue, Kejriwal is not going to gain anything in Tamil Nadu, but a few seconds on national TV.
By supporting the agitation, and also making charges such as the consecration of a church, he is also perhaps looking for opportunities to appear secular. In fact, at his press conference, he was supported by one of the priests.
So far it had been a wait-and-watch game; but now is the crunch situation: the state and central governments will have to move on with the critical steps if they want to commission the plant; and PMANE, its leader Udayakumar and others will have to create a crisis to stop it.
But as Firstpost highlighted earlier, PMANE’s biggest failing will be the lack of political and popular support for the agitation elsewhere in the state. Kudankulam is not the first atomic power plant in Tamil Nadu. The state has been using electricity from the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) at Kalpakkam near Chennai for close to three decades. There have been charges of environmental hazards and lack of safety all these years, but MAPS as well as a small fast breeder test reactor continued to operate in Kalpakkam.