27 C
September 30, 2023

Vizhinjam Protests: Catholic Priest Denies Foreign Aid Allegation

If the claim that a Church-led demonstration against a harbour project got foreign funding to destabilise the country is proven, the Catholic priest has sworn to resign from the ministry and accept whatever punishment.

Father Theodacious D’Cruz, one of the organisers of the fishermen’s protest against the Adani international seaport at Vizhinjam coast in Thiruvananthapuram district in the southern Indian state of Kerala, declares that “Our hands are clean and ready to face any probe.”

Since July 20, thousands of fishermen and their families have demonstrated against the development of the private seaport since Kerala’s Communist-led administration has rejected their requests for relocation and rehabilitation.

“Our protest has now entered the 105th-day and we are getting good public support, but we are being accused of accepting foreign funds to destabilize the country and its developments,” Father D’Cruz told Matters India on November 1.

The priest was responding to the allegation that Aleyamma Vijayan, the secretary of Sakhi Women’s Resource Centre, received funds for the ongoing coastal protest. She is the wife of A J Vijayan, a trade union leader and a petitioner in the National Green Tribunal against the port project.

The news outlet “News 18” that broadcast the contentious news has been sued for defamation by Aleyamma. She claimed in the petition that the group has been active in human rights work in Thiruvananthapuram since 1996. In order to receive donations, it is registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act as a Public Charitable Trust.

“Sakhi’s actions are very open and obvious. Its income has been audited annually and its income tax reports have been filed on time because it is a registered organisation under the Indian Trust Act, according to Aleyamma in the petition.

She added that Sakhi had obtained foreign funding for the implementation of the tasks they had undertaken, not, as had been claimed, for the benefit of the Vizhinjam fish workers.

The organization has not accepted funds after Covid as they could not conduct field studies. She demanded the channel to tender an apology or pay 10 million rupees in damages.

News 18 had also accused Father D’Cruz of taking 250 million rupees as foreign donation.

“If the channel can prove I have taken 25 paise from any foreign country I will quite my priesthood and undergo any punishment,” he said adding if the channel is not able to prove it “it should provide 3 cent land to each fisherman who lost his house due to the port project and build houses for him.”

He emphasised that the federal government keeps track of the foreign donations received by the Latin archdiocese of Trivandrum and that “it takes no time for it to take action against me in case I have collected any foreign funds unlawfully.”

In order to prove that the priest had stolen money from the Dubai Sheikh, the station aired a video tape showing the priest accepting donations from Latin Catholics living and working in Dubai.

“It is true that our family members who work in Dubai gave 25,000 rupees. Does that imply we obtained it from a Sheikh in Dubai? He challenged the television network and other media outlets to provide evidence to back up their claims.

The priest also questioned their justification for the donation of 25,000 rupees by a Sheikh from Dubai.

Father D’Cruz claimed that all of these media campaigns are a part of a private company’s plan to undermine the fishermen’s fight for survival.

The fishermen, however, vowed to continue protesting until their demands were satisfied.

In addition to their other seven demands, the protesting fishermen want kerosene subsidies similar to those provided in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu and housing subsidies for those who live in warehouses. They also want compensation for their fellow fishermen who lost their homes to the seawater after the Adani seaport construction started in 2015.

The protestors’ demand to stop port building for three months and for a fair social impact assessment to be conducted since they claim they have lost their homes and miles of seashore since construction began is the major point of contention between the administration and the protesters.

In contrast, the government consented to all of their demands, with the exception of delaying the building since it would damage the state’s reputation.

Related posts

Aqua farmers suffer loss to the tune of about ₹25,000 crore in Andhra Pradesh due to poor exports

Thalassic Post

Chinese surveillance vessel ‘Yuan Wang 5’ re-enters Indian Ocean

Thalassic Post

Close shave for 10 fishermen as fishing boat catches fire near Wheeler Island

Thalassic Post

Leave a Comment