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Rediff.com  » News » Church support to Koodankulam N-plant protests raises eyebrows

Church support to Koodankulam N-plant protests raises eyebrows

Last updated on: November 10, 2011 15:59 IST

Church support to Koodankulam N-plant protests raises eyebrows

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A Ganesh Nadar in Idinthakarai

It has been three weeks since villagers in Tamil Nadu's Idinthakarai have been on a relay fast to protest against the Koodankulam nuclear plant. A Ganesh Nadar talks to locals and tries to find out why the church is up in arms against the nuclear plant.

The protests are being spearheaded by SP Udaykumar at the Idinthakarai village church. Udaykumar, who stays with the parish priest Father Jaikumar, uses the church's computer to send emails to newspapers about the agitation. 

Many have raised the question as to why the church is so actively involved in the protests against the nuclear plant, and there are allegations that the church involvement in the protest is being funded from America. The Koodankulam nuclear plant is being set up with Russian assistance.

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Image: The site of the nuclear power project at Koodankulam
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
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'I have to support whatever my flock desires'

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According to Anbumani, who is personal assistant to the director at Koodankulam nuclear power plant, Fr Jaikumar is openly hostile to the nuclear plant. "He seems to hate them."

When this correspondent asked Fr Jaikumar about his support for the protestors, he said, "I have to support whatever my flock desires."

However, most people feel that it is the other way round. For instance, the fishermen are protesting the plant because they say the parish priest has asked them to do so.

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Image: An anti-Koodankulam banner
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
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'Other countries are shutting down their plants, why are we starting new ones?'

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Fr Thadyuse, the priest of the church in Koodankulam, was forthright. "Did you not see the destruction in Fukushima? Then how come you are supporting the plant? You did not hear the loud noises during the hot run, it was scary. Radiation will mix with the sea water and the fishes will be affected. They told the public to take iodine tablets, which was also scary. The last straw was the idea of evacuation," he told this correspondent. 

"Whenever there is danger to any village, people ring the church bell, which is the custom. So it is natural that we take the lead when there is danger, and we see danger in this nuclear plant," said Fr Thadyuse.  

Fr S Peter is the priest at the popular St Antony's church in Ovary, another coastal village that sent people to participate in the relay fast at Idinthakarai, to protest against the nuclear plant. 

"I don't like the nuclear plant. While other countries in the world are shutting down their nuclear plants how come we are starting new ones? The dangers are more than the advantages. Neyveli has enough power for Tamil Nadu. Tell them to stop giving power to Andhra and Kerala," he said. 

"Fukushima now, Chernobyl earlier, are examples of nuclear disasters that we have to learn from. We don't have to wait for it to happen here. The Russians haven't started a single plant in their own country after the disaster at Chernobyl. But they have the nerve to sell us something that they don't use themselves. The radiations from the Chernobyl plant are still affecting people there," Fr S Peter added.  

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Image: Father Thadyuse (left) from the church in Koodankulam and Father Peter from St Antony's church, Ovary
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
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Expert group meets KNPP protestors at Tirunelveli

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Fr Peter, who is fiercely against the nuclear plant coming up, said, "A tsunami can strike at any time, this plant is on the coast. We have handed over Katchatheevu to the Lankans. They are attacking our fishermen there. The Chinese are building a harbour in Lanka. Soon their navy will be stationed here. What if there is a war? They will first bomb Koodankulam and Kalpakkam to do maximum damage!" 

Efforts to meet the bishops of Tirunelveli -- both Protestant and Roman Catholic -- proved difficult. They were not interested in discussing Koodankulam with a reporter who had come without an appointment. 

Local Christian priests in the villages told us that the bishop was aware of what was going on in the village and was supporting it. 

On Tuesday the central government appointed a 15-member group of experts who met the protestors at the Tirunelveli collectorate to allay the fears of the locals. 

Their first meeting was in Chennai, and on Tuesday they met for the second time. While 10 members of the 15-member expert group turned up, only two representatives from the dissenting side attended the meeting -- of which one was Fr Pushparayan.

The protestors had sent 50 questions for the expert group to answer, which the latter said they would answer at the earliest. They were also going to visit the plant to see what safety measure have been undertaken. "The development of the nation and the welfare of the people," they said, was their ultimate aim.


Image: Expert committee members interact with reporters outside the Tirunelveli collectorate
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
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