Cops remove priests to enforce court order
Police on Thursday made a forcible entry into a church in Kerala, caught in a controversy over its possession between two factions, and removed the resisting priests and followers of one of them before the Ernakulam district administration took control of the shrine.
The police broke open the main gates of the church and forcibly removed the protesting bishops, priests and followers of the Jacobite faction from the premises.
“The keys of the church will be given to the high court on Friday,” Ernakulam collector S. Suhas told reporters in Piravom soon after the police took control of the church.
The resisting Jacobite bishops and priests courted arrest after the collector, who reached there amid their forceful evacuation from the church, held talks with top leaders.
The collector managed to convince the bishops that “there was no other option” as the district administration was bound to implement the court directive that those belonging to the Jacobite faction be removed from the premises of the church, known as Piravom Valiyapalli, and submit a report.
Kerala High Court ordered the collector to take the control of the church with immediate effect.
Considering the matter again later, the high court ordered the government to implement the court order before noon on Friday and submit a report. It also directed the police to ensure law and order in the area.
The state government sought time till Friday morning to remove all persons camped on the premises of church.
An untoward incident was averted following the timely intervention of the collector who reached the spot when the police personnel were forcefully removing the priests and followers who prevented them from entering the church.
Sensing that the situation would turn violent, the collector sought to pacify the agitating people and held talks with the bishops.
Following the talks, a senior bishop of the church appealed to the followers to let the law take its course.
When the bishops yielded to the arrest, others also did so without much resistance.
Jacobite priests and followers had earlier refused to heed authorities’ plea for cooperation to implement the Supreme Court order giving possession of a church here to Orthodox faction.
Several priests and the faithful of the Jacobite faction staying inside the church complex had threatened to jump into the river in front of the building if they were removed forcefully.