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Church exit plan angers protesters

Anti-nuclear movement says it feels betrayed by diocese u-turn

Shailendra Boora, Idinthikarai

Shailendra Boora, Idinthikarai

Published: April 23, 2012 05:00 PM GMT

Updated: April 24, 2012 10:02 AM GMT

Church exit plan angers protesters
Indians protesting

Villagers opposing a nuclear power plant in southern India have accused the Church of stabbing them in the back after a recent attempt to distance itself from the protests. “The Church is letting us down by slowly disassociating itself from the movement as its leaders are afraid of the government and want to save themselves,” said Peter Milton, a protest leader opposing the building of a nuclear plant at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu state. The Catholic Church, especially Tuticorin diocese, had previously backed the protest led by the People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy (PMANE). Thousands of people from 20 villages have camped out at Idinthikarai, a village close to the plant, for months. However, yesterday Tuticorin diocesan spokesperson Father William Santhanam said the Church wants protestors to act more wisely, especially since the state government has changed its stance on the issue. The Tamil Nadu government had initially opposed the Koodankulam project which is being built with Russian technology. However, last month it backtracked and said the plant would be commissioned to address the state’s crippling energy crisis. “We cannot go against the government. We expect the anti-nuclear movement to proceed prudently,” Fr Santhanam said. The Church allegedly changed its stand after federal agencies froze the bank accounts of two diocesan organizations for allegedly diverting overseas funds to support the anti-nuclear protest. Milton alleged the diocese now wants to protect its cash. “What is the Church without its people? When we die, what will they do with that money?” he asked. S P Uday Kumar, who heads PMANE, said the Church is giving “lame excuses.” “I am not a Christian and have nothing to do with the Church. But in my view, it should take the side of the poor, as they get no support from political parties, bureaucrats or business people,” he said.  

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