31st DAY OF THE HUNGER STRIKE
PLEASE VISIT THE JESUIT HOUSES IN YOUR COUNTRY IF YOU CAN NOT WRITE TO THEM
For your action, we are sending you the following latest updates on Fr. Pallath¡¯s hunger strike.
– Protests spread to other Jesuit Institutions of Kerala
– Tom Kochery joins issue with the Jesuits
– Fr. Mani followed by Fr. George Valiyapadam and Fr.Stephen Mathew in relay Hunger strike
– Dharna and fast to take place at Trivandrum Kannur and Bangalore.
With the shifting of Fr.Pallath to the medical college hopital, if the Jesuits of Kerala thought the problem has moved away from their doorstep, they were in for a rude shock. An indication of the growing anger against the stubbornness of the Jesuits came yesterday in the form of a protest march and sit in before the Loyola College at Trivandrum – a premier Jesuit institution of Kerala.
The protests were lead by none other than Fr. Tom Kochery, a leading Redemptorist priest and comrade-in-arms with the Jesuits in several agitations of the fish workers of Kerala. Fr. Tom Kochery also heads the National Fish Workers Forum, and is, along with Ms. Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, one of the convenors of the National Alliance of People’s Movements. He was joined by activists of the Samajwadi Jana Parishat, several nuns of the Society of Jesus and Mary and the Medical Mission sisters. Fr.Kochery has also announced protests to take place before Jesuit institutions in Bangalore on Monday.
Against the total insensitivity of the Jesuits, public anger is building up in a manner least expected by the Jesuits. Reports are coming in of several protest actions planned in various parts of the state and elswhere in the country. On Monday, the Loyola college Trivandrum will again witness a protest demonstration attended among others by noted political intellectual of Kerala P.Govindapillai. Several priest and nuns along with various human rights activists are expected to take part in the protest action.
Meanwhile, the South Indian Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring has planned a series of protest actions in Bangalore before the Jesuit institutions there, commencing from Tuesday. The Dalit christians fo Kannur have teamed up with several human rights and social action groups of Kannur district to put pressure on the Jesuit and church authorities to resolve the issue in a Just manner. A public meeting and solidarity fast is being observed at the stadium corner in Kannur tomorrow.
Since the arrest and hospitalization of Fr. Pallath, his closest priest followers have resolved to continue the visible face of the hunger strike through a relay hunger strike in a shamiana erected before the Medical College hospital. Following Fr. Mani Parambet, Fr. George Valiapadam and now Fr. Stephen Mathew have undertaken fast there. Fr. Stephen is to be followed by Fr. sebastian Kizhakkekoot and Fr. George pulikkuthiyil.
Stand Steadfast – urges solidarity committee!!
As concern mounted about Fr. Pallath’s deteriorating health, the Chairman of the solidarity committee in support of Fr. Pallah’s struggle for Justice, veteran trade union leader, Mr. A.Vasu, convened an urgent meeting of Fr. Pallath’s supporters late last night and reviewed the struggle and the future course of action. As the hunger strike entered the 30th day, grave fears about the threat to Fr. Pallath’s life was discussed, since he has decided to continue the fast in the hospital and has refused even medication. The fact that the Jesuit authorities of Kerala have not budged an inch and have only hardened their stand all the more – not only dishonoring earlier agreements but even going back from the meagre concessions they were willing to consider during informal exchanges with unofficial interlocutors was discussed. Fears were expressed about whether the strike was proceeding on the line script crafted by the Jesuits – of endangering Fr. Pallath’s life and getting rid of the problem once and for all.
After serious deliberations and taking full cognizance of the threat posed to Fr. Pallath’s life, the committee decided that their genuine concerns for Fr. Pallath’s life should not come in the way of Fr. Pallath’s right to lead his struggle for justice to its logical conclusion. His is a struggle for a life of dignity. Fr. Pallath is fully aware of the implications of his struggle. The struggle is being waged by him. The action council and the solidarity committee are merely supporting his struggle- averred the meeting. The meeting resolved to continue the struggle steadfastly and not to arbitrate on matters which should entirely be the prerogative of the agitationist. \”We will continue to present the facts of the case to the general public. Finally, no authority however powerful will be able to resist the groundswell of people’s protests and the moral strength of Fr. Pallath. If Fr. Pallath is convinced that no price is too big to be paid for a life of dignity and to ensure
that justice is obtained, his supporters will respect that decision\”- a statement issued after the meeting said.
Dalit Christians petition Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Conference
As Fr.Pallath’s hunger trike entered the 30th day today, Dalit Christians under the banner of the Dalit Cultural Renaissance Centre – Cannanore petitioned the Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Conference (KCBC) to urgently intervene and save Fr. Pallath’s life. The petition addressed to the president of KCBC, Major Arch Bishop Varkey Vithayathil, read:
\”Dear Spiritual Father,
We are Dalit Christians, the oppressed and the untouchable dalits and tribals of Norh Kerala – Malabar, who have been liberated in to the universal brotherhood of Christian faith through the works of Jesuit missionaries. The Jesuit society continues to retain our love and respect for this liberative role in our lives.
It is therefore with a deep sense of anguish and pain that we are today having to write to you about the present Jesuit leadership’s totally unjust and inhuman treatment of Dr. J.J.Pallath who has made stellar contributions to the dalit emanicipative process by bringing to centre stage our true culture and ethos. As you would know, Dr. Pallath’s work among Dalit, tribal and fisher people’s communities have been recognized as the preferential option of the Church towards these oppressed communities. The sense of Justice that has been imparted to us by the pioneering Jesuit missionaries of yore compels us therefore to raise our voice against this grave injustice.
The response of the Jesuit authorities of Kerala to a priest who has been fasting at their doorstep for 30 days pains us. He is being vilified, aspersions are cast on his character and a vicious campaign to tarnish his image is being carried out using pliable media. All this while the cause of the hunger strike that has now entered a stage when his life is in real danger is the deliberate violation of the agreement entered in to between Fr.Pallath and the Jesuit superiors of Kerala in October 2001.
We believe that a stage has been reached when the Bishop’s of Kerala can no longer treat this issue as an internal matter of the Jesuits. The moral conscience of Kerala has been provoked by the utter disregards the Jesuits are showing to natural justice and human rights. What is at stake is the reputation of the entire Christian community. We call upon you to intervene decisively in the matter and ensure that the issue is resolve in a manner, where the Christian community is seen to be standing firmly on the side of Justice. The time is fast running out. We urge you to intervene quickly.¡±
Mr. T.I Joseph, Mr. Issac Pilathara, Mr. C.P Gabriel, Mr. N.J. Thomas, Mr. T.M Ignatius.