Priest ties to cross to protest Kerala’s crippling strikes

Kerala suffered 390-billion-rupee loss in 100 hartals in 2017

By Cyriac Sebastian

Kochi: A Catholic priest in Kerala on October 16 got himself tied to a cross for eight hours to protest strikes that have crippling effect on people with losses running into billions of rupees in the southern Indian state.

“Kerala has witnessed around 100 hartals in the past 10 months that accounted for a loss of 390 billion rupees,” Father Davis Chiramel wrote on his social media platforms a day before he launched the “global campaign” against reckless hartal called by political parties and others.

Hartal is a South Asian term for mass protest involving total shutdown of workplaces, offices, shops, educational institutional institutions as a form of civil disobedience.

However in Kerala, hartals have become “part and parcel of life,” reports The New Indian Express newspaper. The hartal is called at the state, district, taluk, village or even at the panchayat ward level, the newspaper noted.

The priest, who hit international headline eight years ago by donating one of his kidneys to a poor Hindu villager, clarified that his latest campaign hashtagged “I challenge hartal” was not against any political parties or communities.

However, the day he chose for the launch coincided with a strike called by the opposition United Democratic Front to protest hike petrol price.

“Do we need hartal?” asked the 56-year-old lanky bearded priest in his Facebook page announcing the campaign.

More than 700 people gathered to watch Father Chiramel get himself tied to a cross at Vylathur near Kunnamkulam in Thrissur district. He lay on the cross blindfolded from 10 am to 5 pm. A layman, Sumesh Chengamanadu, also joined the priest on another cross. The priest is the parish priest of St Cyriac Church of Vylathur under Trichur archdiocese.

The priest said he chose the unique form of protest to symbolize the hardship common people undergo during hartal days. Several patients have died in the state as they could not get medical help on time. Thousands of people get stranded on railway stations, bus terminals and other places as the hartal organizers prevent people from traveling by vehicles.

Father Chiramel, who is also the president of the Kidney Foundation of India, clarified that the campaign was to get millions people to assert that they are against hartal. “What is important is not the party, or the community, but the pain and anguish of human beings,” he added.

The campaign had adopted the Gandhian path that stresses personal suffering to achieve a common goal, said Father Chiramel, who became a Catholic priest 29 years ago, to explain why he tied himself to the cross for hours.

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7 thoughts on “Priest ties to cross to protest Kerala’s crippling strikes

  1. Fr.chiramel is a sign that priesthood is still valuable amidst many catholic priests running commercial institutions and consider social disorders as defence mechanism, to solve huge problems behind the curtain.

  2. I too salute Fr.Davis Chiramel. Everyone understands the value of personal suffering which invariably calls for an end to inflicting suffering on others. Let’s share and lighten the burden of others and never be those who inflict pain/burden on others.

  3. It affects on economy. It is detrimental to the state and its workers. It has negative effects. It destroys the power of work. It brings lot of inconvenience. Wish let no Hartal/protest cause lot of damage. Salute to Fr. Chiramel.

  4. Hartal is a curse and an social evil in Kerala. This need to be ended. why don’t they think about the loss that brings due to such hartals? it is terrible. My full support for the initiative of Fr.Chirammel. Let more and more people come to such awareness. let us hope for a Kerala with out hartal.

  5. I endorse the cause highlighted by Fr. Chiramel. I think the court should ban every form of protest that cripples normal life and that damage life and property. There are cultured ways of protest through the use of media, posters and satyagraha. Places like “Jantar Manter” of Delhi or the “Hyde Park” of London could be created where individuals or groups can protest without inconveniencing normal life.

  6. Years back while we were returning to the U.S. after visiting Kerala, 60 miles drive from home to the airport, witnessed three accidents and 6 political rallies.

    My young daughter has not witnessed any political rally in the U.S.. She asked me with surprise, is there any ambulance in Kerala? The next question was more surprising, ” dad, how they can earn money without working”?

    Kerala is quite known for her hartal culture! Years back, after boarding a boat from Quilon to another waterway location, the boat won’t move. There were some U.S. tourists. The reason ” lightening strike “.

    There must have an end to this social disorder of Kerala. The money lost to the economy, inconvenience and delays causing to the public etc are too unbearable to explain. There must be a stop of this virus of ” State disorder”.

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