S P Udayakumar, the activist at the centre of anti-nuclear protests at Kudankulam, has found himself in the middle of a controversy after an ‘expose’ on Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV.
The 56-year old activist has been in the forefront of protests against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.
He joined the AAP in 2014 when he stated that he found the AAP a credible alternative to the Congress and the BJP. The reason for his departure from the AAP according to him is because the leadership refused to take a stand on nuclear reactors.
In 2016, the activist floated a party; Pachai Thamizhagam (green Tamil Nadu), which centered on the message of "inefficient disaster management system in India" and "how the government that couldn't save its people from floods would not lift a finger in case of a Fukushima or Chernobyl-type accident were to happen here."
Udayakumar also convened the People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy in 2011 which had mounted a sustained agitation against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project. As the movement fizzled over time, Udayakumar said, “Embers of the protest are still there. We have sustained the protest for four-and-a-half years. I wonder if the major political parties would be able to sustain such a struggle even for a few days”.
The Kudankulam struggle collapsed, the activist said, because "people were made to run every day for court cases in a neighboring town. It broke them mentally. The government wanted just that.”
At the time he alleged a there was a smear campaign calling him “an agent who was operating on foreign funds”. This is where he is now involved in a controversy.
The newly launched news network Republic TV broadcasted what it claimed was a sting operation on the activist. On Monday, Republic TV aired a series of stories on various activists who were part of the protest against the Kudankulam power plant project.
In a letter to the Press Council of India, Udayakumar writes in part
“I said she could not donate money from abroad but her parents could do it here in India if she sent the money to them. I also mentioned clearly that I would give proper receipt and the money will be accounted for. I also informed her that we were not interested in getting foreign funds”
This isn’t the first time he has been accused of taking foreign money. In an interview to The Hindu in 2014, he was asked about an accusation from then Union Minister V. Narayanasamy of accessing foreign funds to which he replied, “We never accessed any foreign funding or any illegal funding for that matter. Everything we do is done openly.”
Regarding funding for his struggle, in an interview to Frontline in 2014, he said “it was funded by the local people. Fishermen contributed 10 per cent of their income every two weeks. More importantly, ours was a Gandhian struggle, organized in a simple manner, in a frugal way. We did not raise any cut-outs, placards, banners or posters.”
In the letter he alleges that a reporter from the channel was harassing his family in his absence. He writes in the letter,
“Sanjeev showed up at my home again in the morning of June 21, 2017 and started harassing my family all over again. When my aged father objected to his ruthless behavior, he fraudulently reported on his TV that I personally had scolded him”
Hours after the broadcast of the sting operation, Republic TV, the channel then aired footage of a rally held by Udayakumar in Thanjavur, where he openly proclaims that he is seeking Tamil secession from India.
speaking to The News Minute he said,
“The successive governments are using the sedition case as a joke and they cannot file sedition case for trivial things. In our case, my friends and I have 20 sedition cases for protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. This is completely unacceptable.”
In a 2013 Telegraph India report, Udayakumar spoke of the role of the church which had come under the scanner. The protest leaders did not deny the support of the Church but dismissed the allegation of foreign funds. He cites a “strong streak of Tamil nationalism” in all social and political movements in the state for long.”
More columns by Varun Sukumar