Answering the Catholic Church’s call to set up vigilante groups to protect minority interests, Christian youths in Kerela have formed a protection ‘sena’, under the auspices of the Kerala Catholic Youth Movement, to fight the Left Front government’s move to rein in Christian educational institutions.
Around 300 youngsters joined the sena, which is yet to be named, on the first day of its formation at Irinjalakuda near Kochi. “We don’t believe in violence. We will follow the Gandhian model of agitation,” KCYM president C. Thomson said after a meeting. Later, they took out a torchlight procession.
"We will train cadres to protect community interests. There won’t be any arms training. But we will fight the overnment’s attempts to browbeat us,” Thomson warned. The sena plans to spread all over the state.
The powerful Catholic Church and government have had uneasy relations for some time now on the latter’s move to "interfere” in minority-run educational institutions. Irinjalakuda Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath had spoken of a second liberation (the first liberation struggle toppled the EMS government in 1957) and vigilante groups to check the government. In a retaliatory move recently, the Kerala University suspended recognition for three Church-run professional colleges.
The government’s demand to keep aside 50 per cent of seats in minority-run self-financing professional colleges triggered the latest face-off. The demand flies in the face of the Supreme Court order that rules such colleges can manage even 100 per cent seats.
Last Sunday, pastoral letters were read out in all churches. These are open letters addressed by a bishop to the clergy and laity of his diocese containing general admonition, instruction or consolation, or directions for behaviour in particular circumstances.
The Church is angry with CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan’s “tirade” against it and the campaign by outfits like the Students Federation of India, which said bishops should be “flogged in public”. The SFI activists had also disrupted an entrance test by private colleges, prompting the Supreme Court to ask Kerala on Friday “what type of state are you?”, while hearing a petition seeking protection by central agencies.
Pinarayi extended an olive branch, saying his words were misinterpreted and that he did not mean to rein in the Church. Later, he offered to hold talks.