Churches in India have taken up the cause of fishing villages in southern Tamil Nadu that are awaiting a Supreme Court decision expected this week on the Koodankulam nuclear power plant, scheduled to come online within a few months.
The court Sept. 20 heard a petition by residents of nearby fishing villages that sought to stop nuclear fuel loading at the plant.
“All our hopes are now on the Supreme Court that is likely to give its verdict on Sept. 27,” said the Rev. Thomas Kochery, a Catholic priest who is one of the founders of the World Fisherpeople’s Forum.
The latest round of protests, which have been going on since the plant was proposed in the late 1980s, were prompted by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s approval for fuel loading at the plant in August.
In the last two decades, nuclear disasters at Chernobyl in Russia and Fukushima in Japan have led local people to question safety measures at the plant. They also have said they fear destruction of their traditional fishing grounds.
“We are fully with the (protesting) people,” the Rev. Christopher Rajkumar, executive secretary of the Commission on Justice, Peace and Creation of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), told ENInews.
Earlier the church council that groups 30 Orthodox and Protestant churches in India had deplored the Sept. 10 police crackdown down on protesters, which saw some 7,000 security personnel charge 4,000 protesters.
The Catholic church also condemned the police action that “caused misery to hundreds of poor fishermen in and around the nuclear power project.”
“We are also distressed to learn that the police has transgressed their limits and entered Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Idinthakarai,” said Cardinal Oswald Gracias, head of the Catholic church in India.
Since August 2011, the church had been the nerve centre of the protests.
“Koodankulam protest is not a Christian issue though many of the people near the nuclear plant are Christians,” said Rajkumar.
“Nuclear radiation makes no distinction between Christians or Hindus,” Meera Udayakumar, a Hindu and wife of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy coordinator S. P. Udayakumar, told ENInews.
“All the communities are together in the protest against this nuclear plant,” said Meera.
Kochery told ENInews that “Christians are also citizens of this country and they have every right to fight for their rights.”