Minority commission raps Church over Meta Strips

| 26 May 2000 09:36 IST

The Goan church is involved in creating communal tension and causing political destabilisation in the name of preserving environment, alleges a member of the National Commission for Minorities.

John Joseph, a member of the commission, has reportedly submitted a report on the ongoing anti-Meta Strips agitation in Goa to the concerned authorities at the centre, making series of allegations against the Church here.

Joseph has prepared the report after visiting the tourist state in the first week of April when the violent agitation had reached a peak. He was also accompanied by Dr Vincent Panikulangara, Kerala-based supreme court lawyer, supposedly an influential person in the Church circles in India.

The Anti-Meta Strips Citizens Action Committee has however alleged that both Joesph and Dr Panikulangara were hired by Dr S R Jindal, CMD of the House of Jindals, who is promoting the controversial copper processing plant worth Rs 300 crore here. "They were not on official visit", claim the AMCAC leaders.

The hidden agenda behind the agitation is to cause political destabilisation by creating communal tension, using the church, states the report. The duo also observes that a large number of priests, nuns and the Church leaders are actively involved in the agitation while Church pool pit and resources are being profusely used to promote the agitation.

While nuns are playing prominent role in dragging out the village women folk, the report states that attacks on government and private vehicles are launched from the Churches and road blockades are created near such religious institutions.

Joseph also suspects hand of business rivals and underworld in financing and propagating the agitation while the local illiterate population is being misinformed and tuted unscientifically about the alleged pollution threat the project would cause.

The Church has however decided to react publicly to the allegations only after studying the issue in depth. "We will come to the press at the right time. Right now we are studying it", said Fr Carmo Martins, the Church spokesman.

Though the project was closed by the government after the agitating villagers blocked the national highway for three days, the supreme court has ordered lifting of the closure. Meantime, the government has appointed an experts committee to study the pollution angle.

Joseph and Dr Panikulangara had also become victims of the agitation when they were travelling back from the air port in a vehicle owned by the Meta Strips, after meeting the chief minister. While irate mob wanted to allegedly burn their car and keep them hostages, they were released only after a local priest confirmed from the Bishop House that they were not company personnel but members of the commission.

According to Joseph, they had met everybody including chief minister Francisco Sardinha, Archbishop Raul Gonsalves, the AMCAC leaders, company officials as well as reputed public men, academicians and journalists, while also trying to reach an amicable solution on the issue.

"Both of them were totally drunk when they met us", alleges Nelson Fernandes, the AMCAC secretary, adding that they had even misbehaved with the women staff in a coastal hotel they were staying, as the guests of Dr Jindal.

Dismissing the report as totally fabricated at the behest of Dr Jindal, Fernandes claims that the Church is merely supporting the peoples' movement. Joseph however describes it as one more evidence of how vested interests, under the garb of environmental protection, are halting industrial development in various parts of the country.

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