The 101-year-old All India Catholic Union [AICU] is deeply distressed and extremely worried at the hounding of young climate change and environment activists in the country. What makes it more critical is that this form of persecution comes from both State and non-state actors, and at a time when the nation is struggling to come out of the medical and economic catastrophe of Covid, natural calamities in the Himalayan region, and the crisis in agriculture as reflected in the strike by the country’s farmers.
The AICU considers itself a part of Civil Society in the country and believes that a vibrant civil society is vital to the overall health of the nation, its plural heritage and its constitutional guarantees. As a representative body of ordinary Catholic communities across the country, the AICU understands the importance of civil society in defending and projecting freedom of faith, expression and fraternity. Any action by governments, and others, that erodes any of these freedoms seriously impacts every group, especially religious minorities, AICU national President Lancy D Cunha said.
AICU national spokesman Dr john Dayal pointed out that whether in religious communities or national movements on education, health, environment protection and grassroots level economic rejuvenation, the burden lay on the shoulders of the young. Their drive, patriotism and concern for the future was unparalleled. Their knowledge of mass media, social media and advocacy had made them engines of change internationally. In India, irrespective of ideologies, the young were in the lead, giving courage to the rest.
The AICU statement, Dr Dayal said, is made in the context of the Delhi police arresting 22-year-old Disha Ravi on on February 14, 2021 alleging her involvement in a Google document that the young international climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted in support of farmer protests in India. The police are also seeking arrest of Shantanu Muluk from Beed, Maharashtra, and lawyer Nikita Jacob from Mumbai. Jacob is a volunteer with Extinction Rebellion India, a branch of a global climate advocacy youth group founded in the UK in 2018. The Bombay High Court has granted Muluk 10-day transit bail, while Jacob has been granted protection from arrest for the next three weeks.
The AICU in its long history has been a votary of democratic norms and secularism in the national political and social discourse. It has stood for the nights not just of farmers or of the Christian community, but of the working class, fishermen, landless labour, Tribals and Dalits professing all faiths. It has vacated peaceful measures for the resolution of all conflicts, and the involvement of the people in the formulation legislation and regulations that may impact the. Common people and the environment adversely, irrespective of governments, ideologies in power.