CHENNAI: It seems 2015 was a difficult year for environmental activists globally. Tamil Nadu was not an exception. Worldwide figures of threats and intimidation against green activists are alarming and those contacted by DC in Tamil Nadu share their own experience in fighting odds.
According to a latest report, at least 185 land and environmental defenders, those who take peaceful action to protect natural resources, were killed in 2015 globally. Close to a 60 per cent increase over the previous year, it is the highest annual death toll on record documented by watchdog group Global Witness. More than half of the killings in 2015 were in just three countries. Brazil had 50 deaths, Philippines, 33 and Colombia, 26, - all fought between indigenous people and corporations involved in environment harming activities.
Environmentalists from the state said they are not surprised by the latest report, for, they unanimously think the state is hounding them and crushing the voice of dissent.
S. P. Udaya Kumar, Convenor of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, says his life has come to a standstill with all his bank accounts and families accounts being frozen by the Centre since 2010. With no charges being framed or no legal proceedings starting yet, he is unable to raise a loan even from a private bank.
Booked for 20 sedition charges and 21 cases of waging war against state, totally 380 cases were filed against him. Accused as an “American stooge blocking development”, his passport was impounded since 2010. He is unable to travel abroad where he worked as a visiting faculty in many foreign universities. “On the whole, I feel that democratic space is shrinking and the situation is going to worsen with all kinds of companies entering into Indian market in the pretext of foreign direct investment even in defence sector”, he said.
Piyush Sethia, Convenor of Salem Citizens’ Forum, narrated a similar story of threat, harassment and torture. “Corporations and state collaborate by slapping false cases to let us down. Police is a stooge for corporate greed. It is important to take action against police and goons, otherwise we can’t survive”. He was charged with 13 cases, including a sedition charge, between 2006 and 2010. “Non-violence is our biggest tactic because police is waiting for us to turn violent so that they can brand us as extremists”, he added.
Twenty years as an environmentalist ‘earned’ Mugilan 390 cases with 11 sedition charges and 10 cases of waging war against state. “Several times, I have been detained illegally by police and attacked by goons and politicians. When I don’t budge, they issue threats against family members, including children”, he said....