Clashes erupt in Bonacaud, scores injured

Thiruvanathapuram: Scores were injured at Bonacaud, around 50 kms from here, in clashes between police and believers under Neyyatinkara Latin Catholic Diocese who were taking out a procession on Friday (January 5 ) reportedly to install a holy cross atop a hill in the forest area.

The agitation turned violent when a section of agitators tried to get past the police barricade, erected to restrict the believers from entering the forest area. The believers were attempting to reach the spot where a wooden cross put up by them a few months ago was destroyed by lightning. The wooden cross was erected in the place of a concrete one which was razed down by authorities as it was located in the prohibited forest area.

A clash ensued between the police and believers who pelted stones at them. This was followed by a lathicharge by the police to disperse the mob. Both believers and the police were injured in the stone pelting and lathicharge.

Representatives of church and police personnel are in talks to defuse the tension.

Karichattimala hill, more popularly known as Bonacaud kurishumala, had been a pilgrim spot for the believers under the diocese. They had been conducting annual ‘way to the cross’ pilgrimage to the hill every year for the past 60 years. The police had said before that they would prevent the agitators from entering the forest land and erecting a cross as it was in violation with a state high court order issued in August last year.

 Problems started when the diocese erected two concrete crosses having a height over seven feet on the hill. The Forest department issued them a notice to remove the crosses citing that it was illegal to construct concrete structures on forest land. The diocese authorities approached the state government against this move by the department. But, in August last year, the two concrete crosses were found to be demolished. The protest march taken out by the believers then had also ended in violence following which the police registered cases against as many as 17 agitators, including a few priests.
 Even though the diocese leadership secured permission from the Forest minister to install a new wooden cross on the hill and to conduct prayers there, the state high court issued an order maintaining status quo based on two separate petitions filed against this move.
 Despite the court order, the diocese went ahead and installed a new wooden cross on the hill, which was also destroyed on November 27. The forest officials conducted an inquiry and concluded that it was destroyed after struck by lightning. But, the believers were not ready to buy this theory.


source: Indian Express

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