Against the totally inhuman attitude of the
Jesuits towards Fr. Pallath's hunger strike, necessitated by
their willful violation of the terms of a signed agreement, human
rights activists have decided to intensify the agitation.
Tomorrow morning will see protest action by farmers organizations
before St. Michael's school Kannur - a prestigious Jesuit
institution. From tomorrow evening, several cultural
organizations will jointly hold a night vigil before the seat of
Jesuit power in Kerala - Christ Hall, Calicut. Meanwhile, several
priests and religious under the banner of CPCI and Forum of
Religious have decided to hold protest action before several
Jesuit houses this weekend.
Since his unequivocal statement yesterday
before the police commissioner, several organizations, including
Yuvajanavedi, the Confederation of Human Rights Organizations of
Kerala (CHRO), and the Swaraj movement have pledged support for
Pallath's cause and urged the Jesuit authorities to see the
writing on the wall and concede Fr. Pallath's just demands.
Jesuits mock a dying man
The only negotiator that Jesuit leaders in
Kerala can trust is the police. Consequently, the chief
negotiator for the Jesuits has become the police commissioner.
For a Jesuit organisation claiming to be present for hundreds
years in Kerala not to be able to find anyone to negotiate on
their behalf, except the police commissioner, is itself a sad
indictment of the religious order. Community leaders have been
with Fr. Pallath, however, and it is they who have represented
The final offer of the Jesuit leaders was an
insult added to injuryan offer to pay two month's rent! This
deliberate mockery of the negotiations was a deliberate
demonstration of their attitude that "we can care less what
happens to Fr. Pallath."
The indications are that the Jesuit
Authorities want Fr. Pallath to die. Why?
- He has embarrassed the organisation too
much, and his death will bring an end to this continuous
- They have to insist that their
organisation does not bow to pressure. The voice of the
people has no place in it.
- The Jesuits may talk about justice on
matters outside of their organisation, but inside, they
do not recognise such a principle. Even Fr. Arrupe, the
former Jesuit superior general in Rome, was marginalised
within the organisation in the latter part of his life
due to his passionate interest in justice.
- They cannot admit that they make mistakes.
This is much different than the recent experience
elsewhere in the Catholic Church. The pope himself has
apologised several times for the wrongs committed by the
Church in the past. On the issue of paedophile priests,
some action has been taken. In the case of Fr. Tissa
Balasuriya's excommunication, it was lifted within
just one year. But the Jesuits are different. Based on a
military style of leadership, if they take any action,
they consider it valid forever. This is what the Rev.
Gregory Naik, the Jesuit regional secretary for South
Asia based in Rome, has essentially been writing to many
- Fr. Pallath has filed several criminal
cases against some Jesuits. Their sensitivity regarding
these cases is evident when they constantly have
requested the withdrawal of these complaints by Fr.
Pallath. If the complainant dies, then the cases will not
go to court.
- There is the special Kerala factor too. In
this state of India whose population is predominantly
Catholic, the Church is part of the power structure. The
Church, police and bureaucracy are well knitted together.
The novel The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
exposes this unity, this "touchable
solidarity." Moreover, the tradition is to
completely crush any challenge that shakes this
solidarity. In this novel, Velulha, a paravan, or low
caste person is mercilessly beaten and killed by
Kerala's touchable police to protect the touchable
from embarrassment and challenges. Fr. Pallath too faces
this same wall of blind and heartless prejudice.
- There is nothing for the Jesuit leaders to
gain by saving Fr. Pallath's life. However, they
have many petty advantages to gain by his death. They
want to have the last laugh, however short it may last!
By Basil Fernando, Executive Director, Asian
Human Rights Commission
Posted on 2002-06-20