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Koodankulam Children Go Back To School

By Anitha.S

05 October, 2012

I am Labisha studying in the 9th Class in the Higher Secondary School of Idinthakarai village in Thirunelveli District. Today has been a happy day for me and my friends. Our school reopened after the mid-term break. What is so special about that, you might ask? It is special for us to be able to go fearlessly to school. Since September 10th, we have been living in fear. The only crime we did was to raise a demand that the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant coming up near our homes be closed. We all gathered on the beach and raised slogans. What followed the day after must have reached your eyes and ears through the media.

We lost quite a bit in those 48 hours. Our homes were looted and ransacked..My mother’s small shop which was a source of income for us was broken and all things taken away. We were shocked by the way in which the Church interior so dear to us was polluted and the statue broken up. Many of our brothers were injured badly. Some of the mothers were taken away. Even small children were not spared. You must have heard of the burning caused by tear gas shells which were thrown at us that day. This is in addition to the sense of fear and insecurity that has refused to leave us even a few weeks since the event.

Going back to school today brought back a sense of routine and normalcy into our lives. I love to read and write. I love to write small poems.I have written one on the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant that I want to correct and copy. I would like to mail it to all those who think we are illiterate. Many of my friends draw well and I feel envious of them. Most of the happenings in the past few months have been very new and exciting.

Painful and scary.Yet we have learnt much more in this school of life and living. We heard that in the Narmada valley where thousands of people were thrown off their homes, again for a few megawatts of electricity, the struggle leaders began Jeevanshalas- or schools of life. We too are in the school of life.

Yes, we have learnt so much by being part of this struggle for life. We heard that there are many people who believe that it is wrong to use us to put across the ideas of shutting down this toxic plant. Many think that we are being taken away from schools and learning and used to blackmail the government. But in March 2012 when the first attack by police on our peaceful struggle took place, all roads were cut off, public transport stopped and no vehicles were allowed to enter our villages. We were unable to write the annual examination and many had to walk kilometers to reach school. What is this to be called – we see it as denial of the Right to Education. By being here, we learnt that there is one such right- the Right to Education that every child born in India has a right to. Since September 10th we were unable to attend schools. Section 144 CrPC gets declared in a rural area like ours with no warning- we have little access to food, medicines and medical help. If you come once to our village, you will realize how isolated we are! With no public transport, we are literally marooned.

We learnt that we are a democratic country. Of, for and by the people is the slogan that should lead us. But we found out that it is not always so. It is money and power that leads us. My little friends Lysiska, Shyamili,Labika, Vinitha, Selja, Jeni, Rosini and Sathya argue strongly that we are fighting for justice. They are of the view that we have not looted or harmed anyone. Then how can we be called seditionists? We have assembled to reinstate democracy as Xavieramma shouted even on the day she was taken away

Veendeduppom, veendeduppom
India Jananayakathe
(We will reinstate, reinstate
India’s democracy)

We learnt how to read and understand material in the newspapers and magazines written about us.We have watched so many films on Chernobyl and Fukushima. Though they are frightening, it opened our eyes to the world and the strength of people like us. We saw images of Kalpakkam close to us.We listened to so many learned people who spared time to come and be with us.We are able to argue about the various ways in which energy can be generated. We even have a rhythmic slogan that tells of different means of energy generation other than the harmful nuclear energy

Kattala yundu, Kadalala yundu
Varsham muzhuvan surya oliya
Ennathikkintha anuulai inge?
( We have wind and tides
Solar the year long
Why the this nuclear plant here)

Is this not the real school of learning?

We understood that there are many things that money cannot buy.Like dignity and true reverence.Imagine not replying or acknowledging a letter that some body like Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer or Mahasweta Devi has written. What value is your power and money if you cannot bow your head with respect to someone elder or more experienced than you? We learnt all that by being here under the thatched roof of our refuge. We learnt to write letters, to speak, sing and shout slogans before an audience, to know the real courage of conviction. What more can you learn in this young age?

We learnt the real depth of the word democracy by being here. Also the unfairness of calling us Seditionists.When the real looters and sellers of our country, the real criminals who plot against the country are getting away without a scar, we are marked as anti-national. It is a deep thought that our young minds cannot take .But just come by and casually ask an 8 year old why she is in the samarapandal and she would boldly look you in the eye and answer that we are fighting for justice and that is why she is here. I am sure that these lessons of life cannot be got from a text book or by writing a half-yearly exam.

Yet, we love our school. This is because we meet all friends there.We are part of a routine.We go to school and walk back together by the sea shore. We laugh, cry, fight and play in unison. We sometimes sit in the warm sand and watch the sea on our way back home. I love to help my little sisters do their home work.I like working days because my mother and sister would make food in our kitchen and feed us all. For days there was no proper cooking at home. Now it will be different.

Do tell all friends that we have gone back to school. We will overcome this phase of the struggle and emerge soon.

As told to Anitha.S
4th October 2012




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