India Idle No More

As the nuclear industry ramps up its efforts to sell nuclear technology to developing nations such as Turkey, Vietnam and Qatar, the path of nuclear development followed by Pakistan and India provide some important lessons about the price that is paid by people of developing nations for this ill-conceived notion of progress. This is not to say that the developed nations went nuclear with the complete consent of their citizens, or with due regard for their safety, but citizens there were at least empowered to a degree that avoided some of the worst possible abuses and reckless expansion of nuclear technology. In contrast, the bomb and nuclear power plants came to Pakistan and India when these nations still faced significant problems in increasing living standards, providing education, and eliminating corruption.
For the English-speaking world, there are few ways to hear the voices critical of nuclear technologies within countries such as Pakistan, China, Russia and India. One exception is Dianuke.org, which was launched by P.K. Sundaram in the weeks following the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns. He was following a PhD program in disarmament studies at the time, but found the university where he was enrolled was too pro-nuclear power for his liking. He put his formal studies aside in order to devote his energies to anti-nuclear activism. He has been involved with the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, but he wanted to curate a new resource that would concentrate more on the hazards of India’s plan for rapid development of nuclear power plants. Since 2011, Dianuke has evolved into one of the best online sources of information about India’s nuclear history and its present conditions. Writers from India and from overseas have contributed articles on a wide variety of topics.
The Western anti-nuclear movement is well-informed about the enormous challenges of the nuclear legacies left in the USA, Canada, France, the UK and Germany, but the problems encountered by non-Western nations are perhaps of a different nature, and relatively little has been written about them in Western languages.
Unlike Western countries, India went nuclear at a time when hundreds of millions of people lived in poverty and lacked access to education. India didn’t possess colonies from which it could extract uranium, or remote islands in the Pacific where it could test weapons. Instead, it had to expose its own people, on its own territory, to the hazards of developing uranium mines, nuclear weapons and power plants. In Western countries, considerations of possible resistance from an informed and empowered citizenry (to the extent that it existed) acted as a limiting force on what governments would consider imposing on the home territory. In India, the abuses of citizens have been much more stark and alarming than what occurred in the West. The same could be said of the USSR, China and Pakistan where citizens have had little protection in the way of wealth, democratic rights and legal systems that functioned in their best interests.
It is exceedingly difficult to find critical information published in English about nuclear programs in China, Russia and Pakistan. The Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy concentrates on weapons and peace issues, but seems to steer clear of criticizing the deployment of nuclear power plants in both countries. The Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum have spoken out against nuclear power plants, but this is only one of the many issues that concern them. They are not an anti-nuclear group per se. The Bellona Foundation in Norway has covered the nuclear legacy of Russia and the ex-Soviet republics, and The Epoch Times has covered the environmental impact of Chinese nuclear tests in Lop Nor, but these exceptions just underscore how little has been written in English about the legacies of what might be called (for lack of a better term) “peripheral” nuclear states.
One could say that P.K. Sundaram capitalized on the fortunate status of English within India as a lingua franca to connect both a domestic and an international readership to critical information about the state of India’s nuclear energy program. He also launched the site when the Fukushima disaster coincided with increasing levels of local resistance to nuclear power plant development, most notably in Koodankulam. This is not to say that he was the first to work on this issue or publish in English about it. At Dianuke you can find back issues of the journal Anumukti which published its first issue in 1987. 
As Dianuke became known internationally, Mr. Sundaram made important connections with activists in other countries. He was interviewed in 2013 on the popular podcast Nuclear Hotseat (#102), he has visited anti-nuclear activists in Germany and Australia, and he will come to Hiroshima in 2014 to participate in the annual commemoration on August 6th. Presently, you will see no “donate” button on the Dianuke website, but of course the question of how to sustain this activism is something that Mr. Sundaram would like to discuss with any individuals or groups that could support his work (Dianuke contact). However, the future tolerance of such activism is uncertain, as the new government of Prime Minister Modhi has announced plans to curtail the work of “mysterious NGOs.” The New Indian Express reported on May 25, 2014 that the government has noted that “the NGO sector in India was vulnerable to the risks of money laundering and terror financing, and details of accounts with returns were important to ensure that foreign funding was not misused or diverted for any activity which could be detrimental to the national interest.” It all depends on whether opposition to nuclear energy will continue to be perceived as seditious and detrimental to national interest.

Update: This just in  from The Indian Express (2014/06/07). India takes a shot at foreigners who would be concerned about human rights abuses there: "The NGOs become the central players in setting the agenda, drafting documents, writing in the media, highlighting scholars-turned-activists and lobbying diplomats and government."

The list below is a sampling of articles from Dianuke. I’ve had the honor of contributing two of them:

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