Indian government 'freezes bank accounts' of church in Kerala over fisherfolks' port project protests

(Photo: © Peter Kenny)Campaign to stop violence against Christians in India on square in front of United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on June 23, 2021 during a session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The archdiocese of the Latin Catholic Church in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram says the Indian Union government has frozen its bank accounts after fishermen protested a project by the Adani port group in Vizhinjam.

The Indian Express reported that the church revelation in Kerala came days before the start of elections for the country's lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha.

A pastoral letter said Sunday that the move came after the fishermen's protest against the Adani group's under-construction seaport at Vizhinjam near Thiruvananthapuram in southwest India.

Vizhinjam witnessed strong protests against the seaport, resulting in violence in November 2022.

The local community is a crucial voting bloc in the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat, where national minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar is a candidate.

Archbishop Thomas J. Netto, in a pastoral letter read in all churches on April 22, said the archdiocese struggles to meet its routine expenses and cost of training seminarians after the accounts were frozen following protests against the seaport in 2022.

"The archdiocese is facing difficulty receiving even ordinary aid for mission work. The situation remains unchanged," Netto said in the letter urging people to contribute to the diocese's expenses.

In 2022, during a Vizhinjam fishermen's protest demanding the implementation of rehabilitation package facilities for the coastal community, the archdiocese clashed with the local leadership of the BJP, Bharatiya Janata Party, the dominant part of the union government.

Billionaire Gautam Adani's ports business leads the project.

The fisherfolk say the project would cause coastal erosion and damage their livelihoods. the Scroll reported.

Back in November 2022, The Guardian reported that protests then by the primarily Christian fishing community against the project led by Adani's $23 billion ports business had forced the latter to stop work at the Vizhinjam port, seen as a potential and lucrative rival to those in Dubai, Singapore, and Sri Lanka.


Joseph Johnson, one of the protest leaders, said at the time that at least 46 protesters were hurt. Senior local police official M R Ajith Kumar told Reuters 36 officers were wounded in the clashes.

Building has already been halted for more than three months after villagers blamed the port's development for coastal erosion, which is depriving them of their livelihoods.

They had blocked the entrance to the site by erecting a 111 square meter (1,200 square foot) shelter.

The Guardian reported that Adani has previously faced a backlash in Australia over its Carmichael coal mine.

There, activists concerned about carbon emissions and damage to the Great Barrier Reef forced Adani to downsize production targets and delayed the mine's first coal shipment by six years.

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