Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kasturirangan Report: Crusade in Kerala

There have been eight major crusades from 1095 to 1270 organized by the Roman Church to bring the lands around Jerusalem under control. Minor crusades were also organized against pagans and heretics and for other purposes.  All of them failed. Now the Catholic Churches in Kerala have started a crusade against the Kasturirangan Report which is meant for preservation of the Western Ghats. Their strange bedfellows in this are the Communists and some political parties.

If you ask any of them what the problem is, prompt answer comes “The Report is against the farmers”. Don’t ask how because none of them seem to know the answer. The Report says, “It is because of the harmony between people and nature in the Western Ghats that we recommend policies to promote green growth, sustainable and equitable development across the Western Ghats region.” (Quoted from TOI, Nov. 17, 2013)

Apparently the Church and its partners have started the agitation against the Report without really studying it. The Bishops of Thamarasserry and Idukki started the blaze. The Kerala Catholic Bishops Council subsequently declared support to them and then set up a committee to study the Report. Probably actions like these gave rise to the phrase – setting the cart before the horse.

A couple of days back the media carried pictures of the Thamarasserry Bishop wearing a Gandhi cap and announcing to the people that there would be bloodshed. Actually, his Chancellor was there when blood was shed in Thamaraserry Town earlier in the month. That priest watched the gory events in which many policemen were hurt, several vehicles were destroyed and some government offices were burned.

Blood had been shed earlier too. The Bishop should learn a bit of local history and understand how Christian presence was established in his area. Powerful local timber mafia prevented the settlers from Travancore cultivating the land they had bought in the place. This was around 1940. It was after Jose Kallivayalil with his contact from the Governor of Madras down the line, money and man power entered the scene and defeated the mafia in a long fight the Christians could operate there. Jose Kallivayalil also built a church for them. (See

In Idukki, farmers from the foot hills moved to the High Ranges in the 1920s. Jose Kallivayalil’s father KC Abraham Kallivayalil (Konduparampil Pappen Chettan) bought about 7000 acres from the Vanjipuzha Chief and distributed it among landless farmers from Palai area on sharecropping basis. (See: Remembering grandfather). They were the first ones apart from the big plantations to utilize such lands. KC Abraham too built a church, at Peruvanthanam for his people.

None of these two groups encroached on government lands. The trees in Idukki which were (and are) protected by the Cardamom Hills Reserve rules were left untouched. In the North Kerala area the forests which were denuded by the timber mafia were utilised for eco-friendly cultivation.

The forefathers of those whom the bishops are leading to agitation were people committed to the soil. They toiled and sweated and created a brighter future for the present generation. Don’t let religion mess with that. The Church certainly has better things to do than joining hands with some politicians to protect unlawful quarries, sand mining, encroachment and illegal resorts.

First, study the Report. If there is any deficiency or mistake, it can be discussed and corrected. This is not the early Middle Age for crusades.


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