In late 2013, a few of us from the Metta Center journeyed to India to learn about the Gandhian movement today. The group that stands out in our minds was a group of highly dedicated fisherwomen who have been resisting the creation of a nuclear power plant on their village shoreline, on the very southern tip of the country, in Koodankulam. Not only is the location of the nuclear power plant in a tsunami zone — in a post-Fukushima world, shouldn’t we all be concerned about this? — the warm water emitted from the site has already destroyed the livelihood of the villagers. Politicians and corporate public relations spokespeople (they always seem to work in tandem) promised the villagers prosperity! Nothing could be further from the truth, with the challenges growing for the inhabitants of the region daily, on land where they can trace their families for centuries, if not more. But the women, in the face of enormous odds, would not be discouraged. A friend quietly added that these women get up early and walk shoulder deep into the rough oceans every morning to collect fish, it is hard to find anything that would scare them.
When we asked them what we could do to help, the women were firm in their response: work where you are in the world to stop the use of nuclear power, and it will strengthen our efforts. Right away, they honed in on the interconnected nature of our movements and highlighted the Gandhian concept of “swadeshi,” which roughly translates to “localism”: start where you are at and work your way outward to greater spheres of involvement (i.e. the family, village, nation, etc.) from a place of power and understanding
They are not alone in their realization of the unity of our struggles. In 2012, they were the recipients of a prize called the “Chingari Awarad for Women Against Corporate Crime.” “Chingari” means a flame or a spark. We were deeply impressed to hear how it was the women from another struggle in Bhopal who had received a much larger prize in 2004 for their work to support victims of the DOW Chemical plant leak, who were sharing their well-deserved award and desperately needed money with struggles throughout the country. In their acceptance speech, the women of Koondankulam said this:
“Today we know the real meaning of the word Chingari–a spark. We know that our questions and actions have sparked the beginning of a change in the blind acceptance of the nuclear agenda of our country. We along with many other communities in India where huge Nuclear Parks are being proposed or implemented are together i this fight for a safe, secure world. This is what makes us True Chingaris.”
Be a “Chingari” and light a spark today on an issue you care about.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org