Clash over church bifurcation move

via PNS | Thiruvananthapuram published on April 5, 2009



The
dispute over the clergy’s move to bifurcate the Latin Catholic parish
in Valiyathura in the outskirts of the capital city ended in violence
on Sunday evening, in which several persons including police officials
and constables suffered injuries.

The police force present on
the spot to control the violent mass of believers belonging to factions
that supported and opposed the bifurcation move came under heavy
stone-pelting and ten policemen including Deputy Commissioner of Police
P Vikram were injured. here were unconfirmed reports that one person
had suffered hack injuries in the clash between the two factions. As
the clash intensified and the stone-pelting became heavier, the police
were forced to resort to lathicharge, teargas lobbing and usage of
water cannons.

The clashes started at about 5.30 pm Sunday
after one faction reportedly attacking a procession that started from
the parish church at Valiyathura as part of the observance of Palm
Sunday. The police, who rushed to the spot to contain the violence,
came under stone-pelting and bottle-throwing.

To control the
violence, the police carried out two rounds of lathi-charge and
resorted to using water cannon thrice. But with the water cannon
becoming useless after water ran out, the dispersed groups reassembled
and attacked the police. Following this, the police lobbed teargas
shells.

More police personnel had to be called in after the
clashes threatened to spread to the high-security zone near the
Thiruvananthapuram airport. Tension was still prevalent in the area as
the dispersed believers had been reassembling on several spots. Higher
officials of police also reached the spot.

The basic reason for
the clash was the Latin Catholic Church’s “unilateral” decision to
bifurcate the Valiyathura parish. Tension had been there since Saturday
morning. A quarrel had occurred at the diocesan office at Vellayambalam
on Saturday after those opposing the bifurcation move reached there
with protest.

The talks between the priests and the believers
had not yielded any result and a clash was then averted with the timely
intervention of the police. The protestors had complained that Bishop
Suze Pakyam had threatened to kill those who opposed the bifurcation
move.

Police officials held discussions with the leaders of
the opposing factions late in he evening and decided to hold a peace
meet at the district collectorate at 2.00 pm Monday.

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