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Halting our development: The Churches of ‘Stop’ India

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The protests at Vizhinjam Port has more than what meets the eye. And this is not the first or the only instance when churches and foreign-funded NGOs have stalled developmental works in India.

New Delhi, Dec 01: Hindering construction activities which are crucial for the development of the nation should be examined as an anti-national move, Kerala state's minister for ports, V Abdurrahiman said while commenting about the agitation against the Vizhinjam international sea port. He indicated that the protests being led by the Latin-Catholic Church are not protests but something else. The protests against the Vizhinjam Transshipment Hub in Kerala led by the Latin Catholic Church turned violent on Sunday, November 27.

Halting our development: The Churches of ‘Stop’ India

A mob of rowdies rushed to Vizhinjam police station last week and held the police personnel hostage. They were demanding the release of five protesters detained for obstructive protests. In the attack, at least 29 police personnel were injured while several other police vehicles were damaged.

While the Intelligence Bureau has a report on the said protest, it would also be important to revisit the other various instances in which the Churches and foreign-funded NGOs have played a role in stalling several developmental works in India.

The Intel on the protest:

The Kerala state Intelligence has learnt that there are some external elements who have been instrumental in fuelling these protests. The report said that a meeting was held at Kottapuram school in Vizhinjam to discuss matters after the attack. Further it added that apart from the protesters, persons linked with the now banned Popular Front of India (PFI), extreme leftist organisation among others were part of the meeting that lasted late into the night.

The Intelligence report submitted by the Special Branch said that in the meeting the suspects had decided not to yield to arrests and continue to exist as a pressure group. The terror links are yet to be confirmed and the police are looking into it, Thiruvananthapuram range DIF, R Nishanthini said.

Church sponsored rabble rousers:

A similar kind of modus-operandi was observed during the protests against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu which was developed by India in collaboration with Russia. These foreign-funded protesters delayed the critical project involving a very important power plant. All they sought to achieve was to hit India when its needs were increasing.

Rapido driver Shahabuddin with friend Akhtar rapes Kerala woman in BengaluruRapido driver Shahabuddin with friend Akhtar rapes Kerala woman in Bengaluru

During this protest, which saw marches in Nagarcoil, the Idinthakarai St. Lourdes Church complex became a protest camp and several Churches advised people to take part in the protests against the Kudankulam facility.

The construction for the project began way back in 2002, but was marred by scores of protests which contributed to the delay. The power plant situated in Tamil Nadu was to be the biggest Nuclear Power Plant in India with a total capacity of 6,000 MW.

The protests reached a dangerous point in 2011 with fears of a Fukushima type of disaster being allayed. It may be recalled that one of the prominent leaders of the protests was S P Udayakumar who led the People's Movement against Nuclear Energy. The Intelligence Bureau had at that time alerted the Indian government about the mischievous role of the NGOs in the protest.

At that time the then Union Minister, V Narayanaswamy said that Bishop Yavon Ambroise of Tuticorin had recovered Rs 54 crore and he was one of the driving forces behind the protest.

The Union Home Secretary had in 2012 said that four NGOs' bank accounts had been seized after it was found that they had been utilising foreign funds to fund the anti-nuclear plant protests.

The protest against Bengaluru Metro:

In November 2021, a section of the All Saints Church protected against the Bengaluru Metro work. "We are shocked to learn that the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board proposes to permanently acquire 883 sqm of biodiversity rich verdant and tranquil sacred groves of the All Saints Church campus in the middle of Bengaluru for the construction of a Metro Station by the Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Ltd, an online petition by the parishioners read.

Anshul Saxena took to Twitter and said, ' Bengaluru Metro. This is interesting. Defence Land was given to the Church of South India (CS) on lease. CSI sold the land to Bangalore Metro for Rs 60 crore. All Saints Church protested against the Metro construction asking to save trees. And the CSI is the parent body of the All Saints Church.

Protests in Odisha:

The protests of 2009 against the Niyamgiri bauxite was spearheaded by the tribals. It was reported that these protests were funded by the Churches and NGOs. They agitated the tribals into believing that the Vedanta's plan to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills will displace 8,000 members of the Dongria Kondh tribe and destroy the environment also.

Bianca Jagger, an international campaigner, and Arundhati Roy too spoke out against the project. In 2012 Vedanta announced the closure of the Lanjigarh refinery which was built at the base of the Niyamgir mountains meant to process 78 million tonnes of bauxite deposits found there.

The Vedanta-owned Sterlite Copper factory:

The Vedanta-owned Sterlite Copper factory in Thoothukudi was shut down by the Tamil Nadu government following protests by locals over a so-called environmental concern. This decision led a big blow to India's copper trade. India not only slopped from being one of the top five exporter of copper cathodes, but became a net importer in 2018-19.

In this protest too, the role of the Church had come under scrutiny. A march had been led by Pastor Lazarus from Our Lady of Snows' Church to the collector's office. Following this, the Church and several NGOs exerted pressure on the government and the judiciary which ultimately led to the shut down of the plant.

The Times of India's Lalita Nijhawan in an article spoke about the protests and said that the protests were orchestrated by a complete pact between all denominations of the Christian Churches in a bid to bring key industries to a halt under the guise of environmental protection.

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