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Updated: May 27, 1992 05:00 PM GMT
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Leaders of 2 million Latin Catholics in southern Kerala state have intensified their fight to be recognized politically.

The state chief minister, two bishops and a federal minister met with government officials to plead their cause on May 9 in Kollam, about 2,800 kilometer south of New Delhi.

The Latin Catholic community forms 7 percent of the state´s 29 million people. The leaders allege that the community is denied "any covetable office" in the state though they have enough qualified people.

The Kerala Latin Catholic Association (KLCA) staged a token fast before the state secretariat March 25 protesting what they called "government discrimination."

There are five Latin Catholic members in the ruling front of the state, they point out, but none is included in the council of ministers.

The leaders say their community is denied representation in "all vital government services."

"Smaller communities in Kerala have representation in public services and the council of ministers," KLCA general secretary Antony Ambatt said.

KLCA submitted a charter of demands to Chief Minister K. Karunakaran July 25, 1991. It demands reserved seats for Latin Catholics in government jobs in proportion to their population.

The association also wants its people included in the list of "Other Eligible Communities" of Kerala to facilitate special educational concessions from the government.

KLCA asked the government to develop the coastal belt of Kerala where Latin Catholics, most of them fisherfolk, live. The leaders say their people face "acute poverty" during monsoon seasons due to fewer fish and rougher seas.

Also, these traditional fishermen cannot compete with crews using mechanized fishing boats, Ambatt says.

KLCA wants the government to find solutions to these community problems. But the "government´s response is indifference and negligence," says Ambatt.

This encouraged KLCA to take the path of agitation. All Latin Catholic members of the state legislative assembly participated in the protest.

"We are not against the government; it is only to open the eyes of the government," said Dominque Presentation, a KLCA leader.

During the Kollam meeting, Karunakaran promised to do "everything possible to keep happy this toiling lot."

Federal Minister S. Krishnakumar, who won a majority in the coastal Kollam constituency in the last election, also promised to help solve the problems of Latin Catholics.

Bishop Joseph Fernandez of Quilon and Bishop Peter Chenaparampil of coastal Alleppey dioceses also spoke for Latin Catholics.

Latin Catholics comprise the second largest Catholic group in Kerala having nine out of 24 dioceses.


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