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Left ally, Kerala Congress(M) in a spot as predominant Churches oppose K- Rail project 

- March 27, 2022

Thiruvananthapuram, March 27 (IANS)

The various denominations of the Christian churches ranging from Catholic, Marthoma, Orthodox, Jacobite, and CSI churches coming out against the Silver line project or the semi-high speed rail project or  K-rail project have sent shivers down the spine of the predominantly Christian political outfit, Kerala Congress( Mani).

It is to be noted that Kerala is witnessing an unprecedented and stiff resistance from the people against the survey and subsequent lying of stones to earmark the properties to be taken over by the state for felicitating the K-rail project.

Women and Children in large numbers have come out against the state government conducting surveys and laying stones. The government officials including ministers have however claimed that this was not for earmarking the land for acquisition but was conducting the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) study.

Bishop of Changanassery, Mar Joseph Perunthottam who is part of the powerful Syro Malabar Catholic Church has come out strongly against the state government using force against the protesting people. In an article in the mouthpiece of the Catholic church, “Deepika”, the powerful clergy said that the action of the government and left front in coming out against those who support the agitation and against those expressing sympathy towards those who are agitating against the proposed project was not acceptable.

The position taken by the powerful Catholic church against the Silverline project will have strong political and social ramifications and the left front will have to face the ire of the public in the 2024 general elections. The presence of several Christian priests at the epicenter of agitation in Madapally, Chengannur had also surprised the left front government in the state. In the police action that followed to disperse the agitation crowd an Orthodox priest was also injured leading to major protests from all corners.

The powerful Kerala Catholic Bishop Conference (KCBC) has also come out strongly against the state government indulging in land acquisition for the Silverline semi-high-speed rail project. In a statement the Secretary of Social Harmony and Vigilance of the KCBC, Father Michael Pulickan said that development must be inclusive and not excluding people. 

He said that Kerala is a place where many people have lost everything in the name of earlier development projects and a new development project has to be initiated or taken ahead with the full support of the people of the state.

He also said that while the state is in a major debt crunch and financial crisis, it has to be studied in detail as to whether such a project was necessary for the people of the state.

The Catholic priest also said that while environmentalists and social activists in large numbers are objecting to the project, the government must be transparent on the steps taken for the project and must be able to convince the people.

The hard-hitting statements of Changanassery Arch Bishop and the KCBC secretary have put the predominantly Catholic political party, Kerala Congress( Mani) in a spot. The party which is an ally of the ruling left democratic front, will have to face several questions from the public of central Kerala, which is its stronghold.

Party Chairman and Member of Parliament, Jose K. Mani is literally incommunicado and the party local leaders including the Changanassey legislator, Job Michael is facing the ire of the public. The Kerala Congress (Mani) which was traditionally an ally of the opposition UDF is now in a corner in the Silverline issue.

Even the Bishops who had earlier extended their support to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan are now keeping a studied silence and most of them are not seen in the public domain after the public protests mounted and police using force to remove the protestors.

Interestingly Bishop Geevargheese Mar Coorilos of the Jacobite Church who is a left sympathizer has also come out strongly against the Silverline project and has participated in the massive anti- Silverline protest march at the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram. Bishop Thomas Mar Thimothios of the Orthodox church has also come out against the project and said that projects which create insecurity among the people must not be implemented.

The strong stand taken by the Christian denominations in Kerala has upset the left front and the front is not able to build bridges with the Christian denominations using the good office of the Kerala Congress (Mani) as that party is in itself corned due to public ire. The Marthomite Church which is again a powerful denomination in Central Kerala has also come out against the rail project as well as the Church of South India (CSI) which had left leanings.

Roy Mathew, Social activist, and political commentator while speaking to IANS said, “ The left front government has lost the plot and they have turned the people against them. The church denominations have come in support of the public as they could understand the ground realities and the CPM of today is a monolithic party and no one dares to object to the dictum of Pinarayi Vijayan. “

Interestingly the Kerala Congress (Mani) will have to do a lot of explanations among the public in the strongholds of the party in Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, and Alappuzha districts of Kerala as a majority of those affected by the project has come out in large numbers and airing their protests. The Kerala Congress( Mani) which had sizeable support from the Catholic church is in deep crisis following almost the entire Church denominations coming out against the proposed Silverline rail project.