July 4, 2005
Church feud takes violent turn; cops resort to lathicharge
Monday July 4 2005 00:00 IST
ALUVA: The feud within a prominent Christian community in Kerala took a violent twist on Sunday evening even as the head of a faction continued with his fast and signed his will here, leaving the areas tense.
Police also resorted to lathicharge to disperse the agitated devotees who had thronged the premises of the controversial Thrikkunnathu Church.
Catholicos Baselios Thomas I, who heads the Jacobite Syrian faction of the Malakankara Syrian Church, on a sit-in in front of the Thrikkunnathu Church since 3 pm on Saturday, sought a written assurance from the Chief Minister on Sunday before he called off his protest fast.
Thousands of his agitated supporters attacked State Additional Advocate General V K Beeran's vehicle near UC college and set it ablaze as he got out from it after being surrounded by the angry crowd.
Meanwhile, the seven member team headed by Catholicos designate Thomas mar Thimothious of the rival orthodox faction, vacated the Thrikkunnathu Seminary following talks with the authorities. The team who entered the seminary breaching the probibitory on Saturday, triggering renewed tensions, also offered the holy mass on Sunday morning.
Adamant on his stand, Catholicos Thomas I signed his will seeking a burial in the controversial premises itself if he dies and refused to even meet top political leaders during the day of dramatic events.
Meanwhile, veteran leader K Karunakaran, who met the religious head on sit-in blamed the government for its inefficiency to contain the issue.
Terming the events as unfortunate, he told newsmen, that the government was taking a unilateral stand instead of trying for a compromise through dialogues between the two sides.
Though massive security had been thrown around Thrikkunnathu Seminary, tension continued to grip the area as hundreds of devotees remain anxious across the state in the light of demonstrations which followed the Sunday Mass by warring factions.
The church feud, dating back to 1973 involving the control over 300 plus churches and their properties, has seen ups and downs of tension over the years marked with litigations reaching to the apex court, compromise discussions, political interventions and pitched battles between the devotees of both the warring sides in the past.
The fast began on Saturday after the rival orthodox faction leaders entered the seminary breaching probibitory orders, that were clamped to calm a similar drama of events last week. The rival faction also reiterated claims over the disputed church.
In the will, the Catholicos Thomas I came down heavily on the partisan stand by the Oommen Chandy government, holding that 173 churches had been closed down during the Congress-led rule. ''They cheated the Jacobites and helped the rival faction,'' the 73-year-old said.
He also refused to meet UDF convenor P P Thankachen and others who tried to negotiate with him on ending the fast. ''We will take care of the church things. You have cheated us in the past,'' he added.
He also did not allow the doctor to examine him, holding to his belligerent stand to continue with the fast until Justice was ensured to his faction.