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Protests from the pulpit

The Church in India has stepped into the activism arena for the first time, mainly because Christian fishermen communities have cited upcoming nuclear power plants as a direct threat to their livelihoods.

india Updated: Mar 03, 2012 22:43 IST
Zia Haq

The Church in India has stepped into the activism arena for the first time, mainly because Christian fishermen communities have cited upcoming nuclear power plants as a direct threat to their livelihoods. One key issue is the discharge of high-temperature waste water into the sea, which, they fear, would kill the fish.

The government is believed to have frozen the accounts of at least two Catholic diocese charities for allegedly diverting foreign funds meant for welfare programmes to the anti-nuclear protests in violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

The face of the Kudankulam protests, SP Udayakumar, has strenuously denied taking overseas funds. But long before matters came to a head, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had secretly engaged Church officials for a way out.

In October 2011, the PM privately met the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India chief and Mumbai Archbishop, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, seeking his help. The church's resentment against the nuclear plants stems from their locations: coastal areas crowded with Christian communities. The PM briefed Gracias on nuclear-safety steps. The church leader, however, told him that "people perceive the government to be an interested party". The priest hit the nail on its head: from locals' perspective, India's agenda for development appears destructive.