AN APPEAL FROM SCIENTIFIC WORKERS' FORUM, WEST BENGAL
ON RECENT TEST EXPLOSIONS OF NUCLEAR BOMB BY THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

This is to express our dismay, shock and anguish at the recent Nuclear bomb tests by the Government of India. The use of N-bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a shame for humanity. But the run for aquiring such weapons of mass destruction is still on. Present day nuclear weapons are much more destructive in nature in terms of its both short and long term effects. It is distressing that India has become a party to trigger arms race involving such weapons in this part of the continent.

There are a million issues which need urgent attention and yet our Government is diverting the country's efforts and scarce resources to a non-issue. Although it is well accepted a fact in knowledgable circle today that nuclear weapons are not at all effective as deterrant.

Before being happy about the achievements of our nuclear tests we should pause to think about our limited achievements in several domestic matters of grave importance. We continue to be in the list of one of the least developed countries. We have one of the lowest per capita incomes. Half of our population is illiterate. Our education system is in a complete mess. There doesn't exist such a thing as health care. Even hospitals in urban areas lack basic facilities and in rural areas they are abominable. Millions are forced to live in slums in subhuman conditions. We are a country where child labour and female infanticide still continue to exist and over 1.5 million children die annually due to diarrhoea. The list is unending.

We believe that there are better ways of building the county's defence. The best way would be to develop better relations with our neighbours. We should not start with the assumption that peace with our neighbours is impossible. We believe that this act of our Government will add to the tension already prevailing in this region and will give rise to a nuclear and conventional arms race. The latter will only benefit the arms selling countries. The best defence of any country is freedom from hunger, disease, illiteracy and harmony with its neighbours.

The Government has adopted the same cynical language as the nuclear weapon powers by claiming that these tests will contribute to disarmament. While making it clear that we had the relevant technological capability, India had nevertheless not taken the step towards weaponisation in order not to initiate a nuclear arms race in the sub-continent. At the same time, we had taken a firm stand against signing both the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as well as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) because they contained discriminatory clauses. Strangely enough it is now argued by sections in the Government as well as the media, that we should accept and sign the CTBT!!

We should gaurd against being swayed by chauvinistic feelings. Unbridled chauvinism has led to catastrophies in the past. We urge all people believing in peace and true progress to take stand against such act of our Government.*

*The text is prepared in tune with the declaration signed by the scientists of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay, The Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai and some other Institutes of our country. Signature and Address


SCIENTIFIC WORKERS' FORUM, WEST BENGAL
c/o Dr. Abhijit Lahiri, 252 Lake Town, Block A, Calcutta-700 089



Dear Friend,

We, Scientific Workers' Forum, some friendly organisations and individuals, have taken an initiative to write a letter to the Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, New Delhi, expressing our concern over various issues sparked off by India's recent test nuclear explosions.

We are enclosing a copy of the letter sent to the Chief Justice with the expectation that you make use of it in whatever manner you consider fit, including the option of sending similar letters to the Chief Justice with the request of taking up the matter as one of great Interest of general Indian Public.

It may further be requested to you to circulate this appeal amongst your friends and friendly organisations so that they may also take similar initiative. It may be communicated to the local newspapers & other media as well.

With fraternal greetings,
Yours sincerely,
Saumen Guha

for Scientific Workers' Forum, West Bengal
Address for communication in this regard:
LD/5 Kusthia Housing Estate, Calcutta 700 039
Tel. 343 8374 E-mail: sm1 @ cucc. ernet. in
swfwb @ hotmail.com


To
The Honourable Chief Justice of India
Supreme Court, New Delhi 110 001

In the matter of :
Protection of the Indian People's Fundamental Right to Life and Personal Liberty against the Physical, Environmental, Social, Psychological, Moral and Economic Consequences of the Recent Test Explosions of Five Nuclear Devices by the Government of India on 11 May 1998 and 13 May 1998 at Pokhran, Rajasthan, and against the Threats of such Test in Future; and against the Suppression of Facts in Relation to the said Test Explosions of Nuclear Devices and its Future.

Honourable Sir,

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals from various walks of life seriously concerned about the environment, society, health, education and rights of the Indian people for some decades, humbly pray to you to protect the Indian People's Fundamental Right to Life and Personal Liberty against the consequences of the recent test explosions of five nuclear devices by the Government of India on 11 May 1998 and 13 May 1998 at Pokhran, Rajasthan.

We humbly bring the following facts in this regard to your Lordship's kind notice:

  1. The diabolical, destructive and devastating environmental, physical, biological, social, psychological and economic consequences of the nuclear explosions and its preparation are now well-known to the concerned people of the world in all scientific details.
  2. The said consequences, both short term and long term, not only affect the concerned adults of the present generation, but also the absolutely unconcerned population and the children of the present and future generations for thousands of years.
  3. Any test nuclear explosion is no exception in its effects, and its preparation of that test uses the known dangerous chain of processes, from the manufacturing of the necessary radioactive materials to the disposal of the radioactive wastes, which is already established as the threats to the human and natural environments.
  4. The consequences of the preparation and test of nuclear devices are not known to the majority of the people of India, and the consequences of the present test explosions are never disclosed to them by the Government of India.
  5. Even all the time, the Government of India is trying to suppress the data and factual information regarding the preparation and test of the present nuclear devices.
  6. Thus the acts of the Government of India regarding the present nuclear test explosions go to cause threats and damage to the life and liberty of the Indian people, who are mostly ignorant of the short term and long term effects of these nuclear test explosions and its preparation.
  7. Only some immediate material loss, physical reaction and mental shocks of the people residing very near to the present site of test nuclear explosions, are reported in the newspapers (xerox copies of selected reports are annexed hereto and marked `A').
  8. In 1956, to oppose all kinds of nuclear explosions, including test explosions, the Government of India published a great book "NUCLEAR EXPLOSIONS AND THEIR EFFECTS" (Publication Division, Government of India, 1956, revised edition 1958), prepared by the scientists of the Defense Science Organization, with the foreword by the then Honourable Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. This book presented most important physical and biological consequences of low and high yield nuclear explosions in details, and the book became famous in the peace-loving world and was translated into several languages in different countries.
  9. In 1956, the then Honourable Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru expressed the principle of the Government of India, against all nuclear explosions including test explosions, in the Foreword of the above book by the following words:

    "But even without war we have what are called nuclear test explosions which, in some measure, spread this evil thing over large parts of the world. These explosions continue in spite of the dangers inherent in them. I trust that this study, brief and incomplete as it is, will be of some use in directing people's minds to the dreadful prospect of war in the nuclear age and to the dangers of continuing nuclear test explosions."

  10. Any change of Politics and Prime Ministers of the Government of India could not change the inherent danger of the nuclear explosions including test explosions, and the present Government of India acted in a manner absolutely against its own principle of peace and healthy environment, and against the Indian people's fundamental right to life and personal liberty guaranteed by the Constitution of India, by never directing people's minds to the dangers of continuing nuclear test explosions.
  11. After the publication of the above book in 1956-58 by the Government of India, more and more facts about the dangers and hazards of nuclear test explosions, particularly underground test explosions, have been reported in various scientific studies.
  12. For instance, an underground test explosion was carried out by the United States of America on 10 December 1961 with the detonation of a 5 kiloton nuclear device 1216 feet underground at a test site 25 miles southeast of Carlsbad, New Mexico, exploded in an 8-by-10 feet chamber cut into a strata of rock salt, produced pressure greater than expected, and it rocked the surrounding desert floor and caused clouds of intensely radioactive steam to escape from the mouth of a vertical shaft connected with the detonation chamber by 1000 feet tunnel, where radioactivity reached 10,000 roentgens an hour (where as maximum safe exposure being half roentgen yearly) at the shaft's mouth, and the Atomic Energy Commission of US closed nearby highways and took other local precautions (reported in, for example, Grace M. Ferrara (Ed): Atomic Energy and the Safety Controversy, Facts On File, New York, 1978, at page 147).
  13. In both the cases of nuclear test explosions in 1974 and 1998, the Government of India neither gave prior information to the people nor published any detailed and necessary report about the nuclear test explosions, which happened to be urgent to assess the risks and dangers in these explosions, and never disclosed the fate of the people affected thereby.
  14. The Government of India cannot legally suppress the necessary information and data about the preparation and consequences of the nuclear test explosions in 1974 and 1998, in the name of `security' of India.
  15. Where the life and personal liberty of the people are in danger, then the right to life and personal liberty of the people could be better protected by the disclosure of the information and data about the preparation and consequences of the nuclear test explosions in 1974 and 1998, and the disclosure of security strategy of the Government of India in relation to the same.
  16. In the case of 'New York Times Company vs. United States' [403 US 713(1971)], about the publication of the secret Pentagon Papers in relation to the Vietnam war in the newspapers, the Honourable Supreme Court of US observed :

    "The word "security" is a broad, vague generality whose contours should not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First Amendment. The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic ."

    Thus their Lordships allowed the disclosure of the secret papers of the US Government in relation to the Vietnam war.

  17. Though on 6 November 1971, the special session of the Honourable Supreme Court of US voted (4-3) against a last minute brief filed by the Committee for Nuclear Responsibility and seven other environmental, anti-war and American Indian groups asking for a postponement of the most powerful underground nuclear test on the Alaskan Island, by the order of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Atomic Energy Commission (US) released 187 pages of secret documents, including the secret memorandum questioning the safety of the underground test. [vide, Grace M. Ferrara, (Ed): op.cit. pages 153-4]
  18. Prior to the test nuclear explosion both in 1974 and 1998, the residents near the site of the underground test explosions were never informed of the actual happenings and its consequences, including the immediate earthquake following the explosions, and thus the neighbourhood people were deprived of their right to life and personal liberty illegally and unconstitutionally, and deceived by the Government of India.
  19. In the same way, the entire people of India were deprived of their right to life and personal liberty and deceived by the Government of India, as the entire people were not informed of the actual happenings and its consequences of the test nuclear explosions beforehand.
  20. The Government of India acted above the Constitution and Constitutional Rights of the people, which should be subjected to the judicial review.
  21. The decision of the Government of India to make nuclear bombs depriving the people of their Constitutional Rights should be subjected to the judicial review, particularly the entire chain of processes to make a nuclear bomb from the mining of the radioactive materials to the disposal of radioactive waste.
  22. Any special act or, ordinance giving power to the Government of India to act against the Fundamental Rights of the people is ultra vires.
  23. The Government of India is liable to compensate the damage caused to the local people of Pokhran and others, by the test nuclear explosions of 1974 and 1998.
  24. The Government of India is to conduct a comprehensive survey on the consequences of the test nuclear explosions, of 1974 and 1998.
  25. The Government of India is to disclose the strategy secrets which allegedly compelled it to make nuclear bombs and its test explosions.
  26. As one of the most important decisions in the history of humanitarian law, environmental law and human rights law, to outlaw the threats or use of nuclear weapons, the International Court of Justice on 8 July 1996, observed [in Para 87]:

    "87. Finally, the Court points to the Martens Clause, whose continuing existence and applicability is not to be doubted, as an affirmation that the principles and rules of humanitarian law apply to nuclear weapons."

  27. All these above facts are brought to your Lordship's kind notice with our strong faith in the observation of this Honourable Supreme Court regarding the people's right to life and personal liberty, that :

    "The compulsion of constitutional humanism and the assumption of full faith in life and liberty cannot be so futile or fragmentary that any transient legislative majority in tantrums against any minority, by the three quick readings of a bill with requisite quorum, can prescribe any unreasonable modality and thereby sterilize the grandiloquent mandate.... ..In India, because of poverty and illiteracy, the people are unable to protect and defend their rights; observance of fundamental rights is not regarded as good politics and their transgression as a bad politics." [Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, (1978) 2 S.C.R.621]

In the circumstances, we humbly pray to your Lordship that this Honourable Supreme Court may kindly pass any order or orders:

a) To stay any further test nuclear explosion by the government of India;

b) To stay all official propaganda by the Government of India, in support of the test nuclear explosions and nuclear devices or bombs;

c) To compel the Government of India to disclose all the facts regarding the test nuclear explosions;

d) To compel the Government of India to compensate the damage already caused to the people residing near the site of the test nuclear explosions of 1974 and 1998;

e) To investigate the consequences of the preparation and test explosions of the nuclear bombs;

f) To review the entire chain of processes of manufacturing nuclear devices, from Uranium mining to the disposal of the radioactive wastes;

g) To review the Governmental actions in relation to the test nuclear explosions;

h) To review the discretionary powers of the Government of the India regarding nuclear bombs and its test explosions;

i)To declare any Act or Acts or Ordinance, by which the Government of India supposed to be empowered to act contrary to the Constitutional Rights of the Indian people, as ultra vires.

j) To stop production of all nuclear arms by the Government of India.

We, further pray to your Lordship to hear us and give us a chance to clarify our above submissions in details.
With regards,
Yours faithfully,
(Saumen Guha)     18 MAY 1998
For SCIENTIFIC WORKERS' FORUM, WEST BENGAL
(Reg. No.S/22142/1978-79)
c/o Dr. Abhijit Lahiri, 252 Lake Town, Block A, Calcutta 700 089
and
Prof. R. N. Majumdar, Department of Chemical Technology, University of Calcutta, 92 Acharya Prafulla Chandra Road, Calcutta700009
R. N. Chakraborty Department of Applied Physics, University of Calcutta, 92 A.P.C. Road, Calcutta 700 009
Latika Guha HUMAN JUSTICE IN INDIA, L/D-5 Kusthia Housing, Calcutta 700 039
Subhas Ganguly B22/8 Karunamoyee Housing,Salt Lake City,Calcutta 700 091
Sukhendu Bhattacharya NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF PEOPLE'S MOVEMENT,18 Surya Sen Street, Calcutta 700 073
Naba Dutta NAGARIK MANCHA 134 Raja Rajendralal Mitra Road, Room 7Block B, Calcutta 700 085

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