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Police investigate church violence

Dalits invade celebration, demanding justice for expelled seminarian

Police try to control the protesters Police try to control the protesters
  • India
  • October 10, 2012
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Police are investigating 150 people for damaging Church property and protesting without a permit after they allegedly broke up a diocese’s silver jubilee celebration on Sunday in Tamil Nadu.

About 200 protesters, mainly Hindu and Christian Dalits - formerly known as 'untouchables' - were demanding the reinstatement of a Dalit seminarian, Michael Raj, who was expelled in his final year.

Father A. David Arokian, who attended the event at St. John De Britto Shrine in Oriyur with more than 25,000 others celebrants, said: “The protesters wanted to shame diocesan officials and were not interested in any negotiations about the expelled seminarian."

St. Paul’s Seminary in Trichirapalli expelled six seminarians, including Raj, in August 2011 for a student prank. One of the others has allegedly admitted sole responsibility since the incident.

Raj would have been the first priest from his Pallar community, said Mary John, president of the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement.

“Justice is more sacred than Mass,” John said, but he denied that protesters attacked anyone. “If we had attacked, the police would have arrested us.”

He said the people disrupted the Mass only to force bishops to negotiate with Dalit leaders and accept the seminarian back.

However, Bishop Susai Manickam of Sivagangai diocese said the seminary board had taken the decision jointly and Raj had been given the option to join a religious congregation.

He added that the seminarians were expelled after months of deliberations and giving them “enough time” to correct themselves.

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