Church leaders are among those arrested by police in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu in a crackdown against activists protesting the construction of the Koodankulam nuclear power plant.
The Roman Catholic Bishop of Tuticorn along with clergy from the Church of South India’s (CSI) diocese of Thoothukudi-Nazareth were booked by police on charges of unlawful assembly, creating a public nuisance, “spreading rumours” and blocking civil servants from the lawful performance of their duties. They have been released on bail pending hearing and a formal investigation.
Construction has slowed to halt at the power station in Koodankulam in the Tirunelveli district of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and the Russian state corporation Atomstroyexport are building two 1 Gigawatt reactors at a projected cost of £2.2 billion. When completed the water cooled reactors will be the largest atomic power plant in India.
However, local residents have opposed the programme and for three months have blocked access to the site to construction traffic and have stated hunger strikes to halt the building.
In September the CSI General Synod issued a statement expressing “her deep solidarity” with the protestors and warned it was a mistake to build a nuclear reactor in a “tsunami-prone and quake-prone area,”
The risk of ecological damage was great, the CSI stated. “We fear that the reactor effluents would kill the fish and further, that the other life inside the sea would be affected by the water discharged from the nuclear reactor into the Bay of Bengal.”
On 27 Oct 2011, the CSI Bishop in Thoothukudi-Nazareth joined protestors outside the plant and pledged his solidarity in stopping construction. However, local government leaders have charged the bishops with crossing the line between religion and politics.
The indictment charges the protestors with having used places of worship to organize political protests – a practice forbidden by Indian law. Police have also begun an investigation of the churches’ bank accounts to see if they were funding the protests.
A police spokesman told the Indian press the churches’ involvement in the protests was bad for local businesses. “Some are asking the people to revolt against the government and against the plant. This is unfair. The shops are closed, the life is not normal…this cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely,” the spokesman told the New Indian Express.