Caste (and sect) of dead people?

A good question indeed. Samuel Kuruvilla tries to explain the dilemma faced by the fishermen community of Kerala. He is also clear minded about the playbook followed by the Italians and wants justice for the dead. It is after all not that complicated at all.

(This article was posted back in 2012. In Feb 2014, two years after the incident, it is reported that the families of the dead fishermen have decided to forgive the murderers. It is possible that social pressure was instrumental in this decision making where blood money will help pay for freedom. Perhaps some one should determine the extent of appreciation in value of (thirty pieces of) silver over a period of 2000 years.


The Italians are actively pursuing the
Church angle, given historic Italian and Vatican linkages with the Latin and
Roman Catholic Churches in Kerala.

Kerala is practically the only State in
India that has a plethora of autonomous Catholic rites predominantly composed
of members of one particular community or caste. While the Syrian Christians
are represented by two autonomous churches under the suzerainty of Rome, the
Syro-Malabar and the Syro-Malankar, the ‘new’ converted Christians in the
Catholic fold are represented by the Latin Catholic Church that functions under
the direct authority of the See of Rome. It is to this Church that both the
dead fishermen belong to and this Church was mentored, developed and governed
till around over half-a-decade ago by the Italian Bishops only.

However, the Catholic Church in
Kerala has been forced to keep out of the controversy given the serious nature
of the issue as well as the competing jurisdictions of three different Catholic
rites in Kerala, each with a different heritage while all owing ultimate
allegiance to the See of Rome.  

Caste politics has also played a role in this
issue, with the dominant Catholic rite in Kerala being predominantly composed
of the upper-caste Syrian Christians, while the ‘Latin’ Catholic Church in
Kerala was predominantly composed of people from the ‘oppressed’ classes of
that had converted to Christianity to escape the rigid Kerala caste
system over the last couple of centuries. 

In fact when the recently crowned
‘Cardinal’ of the Syrian Catholic Church, Mar George Alenchery, who happened to
be in Rome attending his Cardinal investiture ceremony, when the incident took
place in Kerala, offered his good offices as a mediator between the
Italians-Vatican and the fisherman community in Kerala, there was an immediate
backlash with the Latin Catholic Church asking the Syrian Bishop to keep his hands
off the issue which concerned their own flock and not his. 

Given the
sensitivities of the people and particularly that of the ‘Mukuva’ community to
which both the fishermen belonged too, there is a limit beyond which the Church
cannot and will not go, at the risk of being branded anti-national and agents
of a foreign power.

The Chief Minister, himself an upper-caste Syrian Christian, has gone on record
as stating that the two erring Italian servicemen need expect no leniency from
the courts.

The whole issue, other than the
immense tragedy that the loss of two young working men’s lives has meant to
their respective families as well as to the state, both the Centre as well as
Kerala, that saw a foreign power commit coldblooded, albeit possibly not
premeditated, murder at our own doorstep, has highlighted the extent to which
the Western powers and in particular the Western ‘Christian’ powers are
prepared to use old colonial ‘religious’ linkages for their present convenience
and benefit, as and when the opportunity arises for them to do so. 

If this wanton act of aggression
against our nationals on our own coastline and well within our exclusive
economic zone is not punished as befitting our present power and status, other
nations will also be tempted to repeat the same along our coasts in the name of
combating piracy or even worse.  

The law must be allowed take its course as
regards the two Italian servicemen who killed our citizens along the coast of
Kerala on the night of February 15, 2012.



Brown Pundits