Vizhinjam protest: Day after Latin Church’s climbdown, fisher community feels devastated, betrayed
There were no slogans being raised against the port, no speech demanding the rights of the fisherfolk, Beneath the quiet lay a sense of dejection, a feeling of betrayal and discontent.
Published: 08th December 2022 06:17 AM | Last Updated: 08th December 2022 06:17 AM | A+A A-
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: An eerie silence blanketed Vizhinjam on Wednesday, a day after the Latin Catholic Church called off the 140-day-long agitation by fisherfolk against the seaport project. There were no slogans being raised against the port, no speech demanding the rights of the fisherfolk.
However, beneath the quiet lay a sense of dejection, a feeling of betrayal and discontent. “The decision to call off the protest was untimely,” a priest from the coastal area told TNIE on condition of anonymity. “The agitation achieved nothing. On the other hand, the government has a lot to celebrate,” he said.
The protests that spanned over four months had sought various demands, chief among which was a halt to the construction of the port. However, the government stayed firm on continuing the work and in the end, the Church, though unsatisfied, called off the stir. The morale of the fisherfolk has taken a hit. There’s dissatisfaction in the community.
“The entire coastal population, most of them from the Latin Catholic community, is devastated,” said Fr Theodacious D’Cruz, one of the conveners of the now-inactive anti-port council. It was his remark against Fisheries Minister V Abdurahiman that proved to be a major turning point. The Church kept the priest away from the stir and despite his apology, outcry against his words continued.
Fr D’Cruz did not want to talk about the past. However, he feared that the community will be hit.
On Tuesday too, protesters had questioned the priests when they explained the details of the truce with the government. No reason cited by the Church could satisfy them. Now, there is anguish within the archdiocese that believers may refuse to heed the words of the Church heads.
Archdiocese feels the heat
“We had asked the Church to withdraw the protest after the second round of talks with the cabinet sub-committee,” said Tony Oliver, state president of the Kambavala (grill net) Fish Workers Federation. “At the time, the government was willing to constitute an expert committee to study coastal erosion. Had we agreed, the state would have agreed to include a local expert in the panel. But the archdiocese didn’t care,” he said.
There is criticism that the Church surrendered to the CPM and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. A source in the archdiocese said the breakthrough came after CPM Thiruvananthapuram district secretary Anavoor Nagappan met Latin Archbishop Thomas J Netto last week. Following this, the government, with the approval of the archdiocese, requested the intervention of Archbishop Baselios Cleemis of Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. Cardinal Baselios’ meeting with Pinarayi persuaded the Church to reach common ground with the government on the issue.