Appeal to the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India

KUDANKULAM ANTI-NUCLEAR SATYAGRAHA, INDIA, 11 Feb 2013

The Catholic Faithful Radhapuram Taluk– TRANSCEND Media Service\

February 7, 2013

From: Lourdes Church
Idinthakarai 627 104
Tamil Nadu

To: His Eminence Cardinal Telesphore Toppo
President: Conference of Catholic Bishops of India
Archbishop of Ranchi

Your Eminence:

Greetings! We have been struggling continuously against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) in peaceful and nonviolent manner for a quarter century and for almost 550 days in a more recent concerted campaign.  We have been asking in vain for the basic information about the project such as the Site Evaluation Report (SER), Safety Analysis Report (SAR), Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP), the performance report of VVER-1000/412 reactor, and the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) on Liability and so forth.

Instead of receiving the above information, we are getting dangerous cases (like sedition, waging war on the state etc.), malicious accusations (that we are foreign funded and instigated), imprisonment, curfew and prohibitory orders, intimidation campaigns, home searches, physical attacks on our persons and properties, police atrocities and other such high-handed behaviors of the State. A few of our honest and hard-working fishermen have been charged under the Goondas Act. And the Tamil Nadu police have registered more than 325 cases on serious sections with 5,296 named accused and 2,21,483 unnamed accused at the Koodankulam police station alone.

The UPA government is embarking upon an ambitious plan of setting up scores of nuclear parks all along our coast and in many interior locations with the help of Russia, France, the United States and many other countries. There is no national debate whatsoever on the impact of all these nuclear plants/parks on our farmers’, fishermen’s and workers’ rights to life and livelihood; our natural resources; our cattle, crops and seafood; food security; nutrition security; health of our people, and the wellbeing of our progeny. It is pertinent to note here that Pope Benedict XVI himself has spoken out against nuclear energy at an audience with several ambassadors a few years ago.

Even a small mishap in a nuclear facility will destroy millions of people in our highly and densely populated country. We, as a nation, have failed to help our people in Bhopal even after 27 long years; our leaders, bureaucrats and scientists have not even managed to clean up the mess there yet. The dangerous waste still remains there open and exposed. A recent Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) Report on the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has concluded that this toothless regulatory agency has not even ensured nuclear and radiation safety in any of our atomic installations.

None of the above bothers our leaders, bureaucrats and scientists. Scores of developed and advanced countries around the world are shunning nuclear power and going for ‘New Energies’. But our national elites are going for nuclear power with no concrete plans to decommission the plants or to store and safeguard the nuclear waste. Hundreds of thousands of Indians are demonstrating against nuclear power plants and Uranium mines all over the country. And we are doing just the same here at Koodankulam.

After all, our expert team claims that there are serious hydrology, geology, oceanography, seismology and CRZ violation issues involved in the Koodankulam nuclear project and hence we demand a complete and thorough probe into all these issues. After all, this area has been hit by the 2004 tsunami, and there have been several small to big earthquakes in the Indian Ocean rendering the Koodankulam site vulnerable. But the Indian authorities summarily reject our legitimate demand to study these concerns.

The coastal communities who are at the forefront of the anti-KKNPP struggle and many of our interior supporters are all Catholics. Our Bishop of Thoothukudi, Most. Rev. Yvon Ambroise had said that Bishops had a moral responsibility to stand by the people at the time of crisis and suffering and he did stand with us in the early stages of the struggle.

When the Indian government alleged that the Tuticorin Diocesan Association was funding and instigating the agitation against the KKNPP, the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council accused the government of denigrating the Christian community by blocking the registration number given under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to the Diocesan Association and freezing its bank accounts. Most Rev. A. M. Chinnappa, Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore and President of Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council had said: “It is highly condemnable that the government is unleashing repressive measures. We are pained by the government’s action.”

However, the Catholic Church has been rather lukewarm in its support for the struggle and has ducked under the pressure of government’s repressive measures. We all feel that the Church is letting us down when we desperately need your support and solidarity. After all, the political parties in India are beginning to realize our strength and solicit our support as the general elections are approaching in a year or so.

We, as citizens of the largest democracy, are fighting for our right. We have upheld our tradition of secularism, democracy and nonviolence. If sedition charges, Goondas Act, home searches, incarceration and severe repression are the gifts that will be handed down to us, we gladly accept them. We are even prepared to die for the future of our children and grandchildren and our country, but under no circumstances are we prepared to hurt or harm or kill anyone.

As the very last and desperate attempt at securing our independence and freedom, thwarting another spell of colonialism and foreign domination, safeguarding India’s natural resources, changing our energy policy and ensuring the wellbeing of our fellow citizens, we would like to appeal to the Catholic Church to come to the rescue of our people, the “ordinary citizens” of India, and not to abandon us and fail in the commitment to Lord Jesus Christ.

Looking forward to your greater involvement in our struggle, more vocal support and solidarity, and your blessings, we send you all our best regards and all peaceful wishes,

Yours truly,
The Catholic Faithful

Copies to:

Most Rev. Filipe Neri Ferrao
Vice President: Conference of Catholic Bishops of India
Archbishop of Goa and Daman
Patriarch ‘ad honorem’ of the East Indies
Panaji

Most Rev. Varghese Chakkalakal
Secretary General: Conference of Catholic Bishops of India
Bishop of Kannur
Chovva
Kannur

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India
C.B.C.I. Centre 
1, Ashok Place
Near Gole Dakkhana
New Delhi – 110 001

H.E. Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio                
Titular Archbishop of Montemarano
Apostolic Nuncio
Vatican Apostolic Nunciature
50-C, Niti Marg
Chanakyapuri
New Delhi 110021

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 11 Feb 2013.

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