S A A N Post | 1 Dec. 00
- South Asians Against Nukes Post
1 December 2000
#1. India: We Don't Love The Bomb
#2. India: why the Nuclear energy sector is ailing. & how it is a threat to
#3. India: Full text of The Atomic Energy Act, 1962
Dec 1, 2000
WE DON'T LOVE THE BOMB
BY ACHIN VANAIK
Between November 11 and 13 in New Delhi, a major if largely unreported
event took place. The first ever national convention for nuclear
disarmament and peace took place. Over 600 people from all over the country
(two-thirds were from outside Delhi) representing over a 100 organizations
attended the convention and helped form at the end of it all a national
coalition for nuclear disarmament and peace.
It is now possible to say, two-and-a-half years after Pokhran II, that a
national-level anti-nuclear and disarmament movement, opposed to what India
and Pakistan did in 1998, has emerged. Of course, the coalition asserted
its opposition to the other nuclear weapons states but anybody and
everybody can do that. What is important is that people and groups
representative of a broad cross-section of Indian civil society have come
together to collectively voice their opposition to the government of
Indias nuclear policies and to give notice that they will be politically
and non-violently fighting to reverse what has been done.
This was by many neutral accounts one of the biggest ever non-government
organized conventions in New Delhi in almost a decade on any issue. It was
certainly news. Never before had there been such a gathering, including
leaders of major grassroots organizations in the country from Medha Patkar
of the Narmada Bachao Andolan to Thomas Kocherry of the over eight million
strong National Fishworkers Union to the tribal representatives of
Jharkhandis Organization against Radiation, which is fighting a lonely and
courageous battle against radiation poisoning by the activities of the
Uranium Corporation of India Limited in Jharkhand.
This was not all. It is doubtful if ever before in Indias
post-independence history had there been such a collection of eminent
leaders of the global anti-nuclear and disarmament movement. They included
representatives of the two largest Japanese anti-nuclear movements and
Bruce Kent, one of Europes best known public figures who led the British
campaign for nuclear disarmament during the period when it mobilized
millions on to the streets.
Also present were Dave Knight, current chair of CND (United Kingdom), Ron
McCoy, former co-president of the Nobel prize winning organization, the
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War; Kate Dewes, a
leader of the south Pacific womens campaign against nuclear testing,
expert critics from the United States talking about their governments
advanced nuclear weapons research in laboratories like the Lawrence
Livermore Institute, a former British naval commander, Robert Green, who
was in actual operational charge of aircraft carrying nuclear weapons, and
many others of equal eminence.
Yet despite the convention organizers holding four press conferences
including a curtain-raiser on November 9, most papers chose not to cover it
or to take advantage of the offers repeatedly made to help fix interviews
with any of the visiting delegates whether from abroad or other parts of
the country. Over 50 delegates came from Pakistan, and 10 more from
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. These included senior retired military leaders of
the highest standing in Pakistan who have been outspoken in their
opposition to Chagai. All of them, including those from Australia, Asia,
Europe and north America came entirely at their own expense to help forge a
greater international unity among those who remain bitterly opposed to
nuclear weapons of all countries including their own.
The issue is much larger than just inadequate coverage of the convention.
What does it say about the nature of news journalism in the top,
pace-setting papers of our country today that one such major English
language daily could carry on its front page, as its lead, a story of a
Russian female television newscaster who undresses while reciting the news
but does not carry news of the convention even on its back pages? What are
we to say when the prejudices of senior journalists (and the nuclear bomb
issue is a very emotive issue) can have a determining effect on what is or
is not covered by the papers they work in?
The significance of the convention was twofold in what it collectively
declared to be its aims and intentions, and in how its various constituents
came together and are prepared to remain together. A summary draft charter
was produced which has demanded that India refrain from further testing and
open deployment and indeed that it roll back its preparations. Similar
demands were made of India and Israel and of course demands were made on
the US to stop its Star Wars preparations and to join, along with the other
nuclear weapons states, the global effort to totally disarm.
The charter also demanded democratic transparency and accountability from
the government departments responsible for the nuclear power and
electricity generation programme as well as proper safety measures and full
recompense to the victims of radiation poisoning resulting from the various
activities related to all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. Those who know
anything about the nuclear power programmes worldwide will also know that
the Indian programme is one the dirtiest, most inefficient as well as one
of the most secretive in the world. The Indian government certainly does
not want the public to realize this but that is exactly what the new
movement is aiming to disclose.
These demands, especially regarding nuclear weapons freeze and rollback,
obviously constitute something of a wish-list. But this nonetheless serves
crucial educative functions. To begin with, the Indian movement against
nuclear arms cannot expect to have a significant influence on actual
policymaking. However, governments and their policy supporters do not
merely wish to have their policies established, they also want to
legitimize their actions amidst the wider public. This is precisely where a
developing anti-nuclear movement comes in it aims to deliberately and
determinedly de-legitimize such policies by criticizing and exposing the
deceits, hypocrisies, stupidities and dangers of such government nuclear
thinking and actions.
The more successful it is in doing this the more it becomes also capable of
affecting actual policies. If it is more difficult to do so at the central
or national level it is easier to do this at regional, state or more local
levels, where many ordinary people are adversely affected by, for example,
problems of radiation poisoning, and open to mobilization. The CND
programme has committed itself to helping the JOAR in its fight to expose
the terrible conditions that exist in and around the uranium mining areas
of Jharkhand and to demand that the new state government take this matter
more seriously than did the old Bihar state government or the Centre.
The other key lesson that the convention has imbibed is one that the great
anti-nuclear mass movements of Europe and north America in the Seventies
and Eighties took a long time to grasp. That is, an anti-nuclear movement,
if it is to sustain itself, must be a movement that focuses not just on
nuclear weapons or even nuclear power but on peace.
Moreover, to be for peace must mean something more than just wanting an
absence of conflict. Peace must be imbued with a positive content such as
the struggle to further social justice, greater democracy, and development.
That is why it is necessary to link with all kinds of groups pursuing all
kinds of struggles from civil liberties to womens rights to sustainable
and humane forms of economic development to opposing communalism in the
name of preserving and strengthening democracy.
It is a tribute to the convention and a source of considerable optimism
about the future of the CND programme that from inception it has been just
that a democratic and genuine coalition of all kinds of groups pursuing
precisely these multiple issues and insisting that these specific struggles
are also intimately connected to the common struggle against nuclearization
of south Asia and the world.
The author has recently co-authored the book South Asia on a Short Fuse:
Politics and the Future of Global Disarmament
DARKNESS AT NOON
The year when the world came to know of the wonderful potential of nuclear
energy, Homi Jehangir Bhabha, prime architect of India's atomic energy
programme, prophesied that we would apply it to produce electricity in just
Five decades have passed. Bhabha's dream is still unfulfilled.
We have spent millions of rupees in setting up 12 nuclear power reactors
across the country. But what these have achieved is less than 3 per cent of
the envisaged capacity.
Worse, these power plants are disasters in the making. For, we continue
with outmoded reactors.
What throttled our ambitious energy programme?
In a five-part series, Senior Associate Editor George Iype investigates why
the sector is ailing. And how it is a threat to public safety.
PART 1: <http://www.rediff.com/news/2000/nov/21nuke.htm>'A failure on all
<http://www.rediff.com/news/2000/nov/23nuke.htm>The Russian connection
<http://www.rediff.com/news/2000/nov/24nuke.htm>Not power, bombs!
THE ATOMIC ENERGY ACT, 1962
NO. 33 OF 1962
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