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HINDU FRONT BLAMES ´LIBERATION THEOLOGY´ FOR COMMUNAL RIOTS IN MADURAI

Updated: October 24, 1989 05:00 PM GMT
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A Hindu organization here has blamed Christian "liberation theology" for recent inter-caste riots that claimed 27 lives in Madurai district in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The militant Hindu Front alleged that a Christian convert posing as a dalit (low-caste) leader instigated violence against non-dalits at Bodinaickanur, 2,600 kilometers south of Delhi.

The front also alleged that the riots were aimed at creating a sense of "insecurity" among low-castes, then inducing them to convert to Christianity.

Demanding a ban on "liberation theology," which it alleged was inspired by missioners aided by foreign funds, the front demanded a government probe into incidents where home-made firearms and bombs were used.

The clashes started when John Pandian, 36, a member of a Christian community, in a speech Sept. 14 reportedly offended higher castes by threatening to kidnap the local leader´s daughter and marry her.

State Chief Minister Karunanidhi told journalists the trouble started when a Harijan (low-caste) woman was found murdered in nearby Meenakshipuram village. Investigations revealed she was murdered by a mentally deranged man, who was arrested and later released.

Subsequently, Pandian, addressing a public meeting, made derogatory remarks about the village president and asked Harijans to marry the president´s daughter by force, Karunanidhi said. The remark led to violence, he added.

More than 100 homemade pistols were seized in and around Bodinaickanur village, mostly from Harijans. Many non-Harijans in the area also reportedly possessed licenced firearms, making the task of police difficult.

Though Christians are concentrated in these areas, UCA News sources say Pandian achieved leadership not because of his community´s numbers in the area, but because he led their struggle against oppression from higher castes.

Tirunelveli, Pandian´s home district, and nearby Kanayakumari district have large concentrations of Christians. His fiery speeches have periodically made news, and he was arrested several times on criminal charges.

END

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