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Din over Catholic priest's murder in Kerala
George Iype in Kochi | September 09, 2004 17:43 IST
Last Updated: September 10, 2004 22:24 IST
The first murder of a Catholic priest in Kerala has prompted Church leaders to demand a Central Bureau of Investigation probe.
On August 28, the body of Father Chittilapilly, 71, was found with four stab wounds on a veranda adjacent to Varaprasada Matha (Mother of Grace) Church, his parish church in Irinjalakuda diocese, 40 km north of Kochi.
Days after the murder, police arrested Panthalkoottam Raghukumar, allegedly a Bharatiya Janata Party member.
Raghukumar reportedly told the police that he murdered Father Chittilapilly "to protest against his anti-Hindu activities".
Father Chittilapilly often used to visit the homes of poor people and pray for them, irrespective of their caste and religion. He also helped arrange money for the hospital and education expenses of poor Hindu families.
The visits were said to have caused some Hindu leaders to warn him.
The Church leaders allege that the police are trying to hush up the murder by portraying Raghukumar as a drug addict.
"We believe there was a conspiracy behind this dastardly act. We are sure that some communal elements were involved in the killing of our priest. We want the police to unravel the truth and arrest the real culprits," Bishop James Pazhayattil of Irinjalakuda diocese told rediff.com on Thursday.
The Church leaders suspect that the murder may be linked to the renovation of a Hindu temple in Thurithiparambu village, where the church stood.
The Church officials said that the temple had been in a dilapidated state for two decades. Two years back, a group of Hindu activists led by a priest came forward to renovate it. Raghukumar used to be an active member of the renovation team.
"The temple priest had been telling the local Hindus that a Christian priest should be murdered for the temple to achieve fame. We believe Raghukumar was hired by local Hindu groups to kill the priest," a senior Church member of the diocese disclosed.
But local BJP leader Ravi Kumar Uppath denied the charges.
"Raghukumar has been never been a member of the BJP and never worked for the party. The murder of such a noble Catholic priest was a shameful act and we condemn it," Uppath told rediff.com
Uppath said Hindus and Christians live peacefully in Kerala. "We request people not to politicise the priest's murder."
On Thursday, the Irinjalakuda diocesan authorities shut down all its institutes and held a daylong hartal to protest against the murder.
The diocese also formed a 250-member action committee to press for a CBI probe.
More reports from Kerala