It started with a family in Kerala approaching the court against a church bursting loud firecrackers beyond stipulated time and soon snowballed into a huge controversy.
With parishioners of Ollur St Antony's Forane Church, Thrissur angry at Thekkiniyath Raphael for going against the church, his son Sanju Raphael fears that his marriage may be prevented from being held in the church. Though the issue for much media attention and the son had come out openly against the Church and parishioners, the disagreement between the two seems far from getting resolved.
Raphaelâs son Sanju Raphaelâs marriage is proposed to be conducted in the church on January 3.
Sanjuâs first âbanns of marriageâ (the public announcement in a parish church prior to Christian marriage) was on 20th of December, where parishioners widely distributed notices to restrain the family from enjoying the facilities of the church after they approached the court against the church for conducting fireworks during an annual feast.
Raphael had approached the District Magistrate court in 2013 stating that the high-decibel fireworks being organized as part of the church feast would damage his house. Raphael approached the court again in October 2014 after his house was damaged by the fireworks, and the case is still pending.
Sanju has also alleged that parishioners with indirect and tacit support of the priests had also decided to conduct more protests against the family for conducting the marriage in the church.
âThough they tell media that they will conduct the marriage, the priests have a clear role in turning parishioners against us,â Sanju said.
The notices, titled âban the person who continuously gives cases against churchâ distributed by some of the parishioners, say that because of the family, the church authorities had to spend their time in court, during this auspicious time.
Antony Perumaadan, one of the parishioners, also a leader in these protests, says that the church had no role in the protests, and it was initiated suo moto by villagers.
"The church has said the marroahe can take plae there, so let it. But we think the family deserves no symathy and we will continue our protest against then when we feel its needed," Antony told TNM.
He also said that the church and tradition were much older, and the fireworks happen only once in a year for 10 minutes.
âThis is a tradition followed for the last 179 years in the 300-year-old church. Till 2009, Raphael was a prominent person in the fireworks committee of the church. Then he built a house nearby and turned against the church, he can enjoy the facility of the church for 365 days and cannot bear a 10-minute fireworks just for one day,â Perumaadan says.
Sanju has a clear defense to the allegation and says, he and his family were never against the fireworks.
âWe were not against the fireworks, it should not be stopped. Our need was to decrease its decibel or do it a little far away. We requested them many times but that did not solve the issue, so we approached the court and filed a civil complaint,â Sanju says.
âSince we complained, they acted vengefully as they started to do the fireworks closer to our house. Last time after regular fireworks, they burst a number of Kathina Vedi (barrel crackers, which are filled with gun powder), which caused a portion of our compound wall to break, and the local sub-inspector saw that directly. Then we gave a criminal case,â Sanju clarified.
The parishioners also allege that Raphael and his family have given four fake cases against the parish priest, and now they wanted the same priest to conduct the marriage.
Sanju says that this was an allegation fabricated by some people, so as to create a dispute between the parishioners and his family.
"We have not given any fake cases, let them give the case numbers if any such cases are there. There is only one criminal case given against the priest, which we gave when our compound wall was damaged,â Sanju said.
Another argument raised by parishioners was why he depended on the church if he was not happy with the institution.
âPeople who donât believe in church traditions, why should they fight for their rights from the churchâ Perumaadan asks.
Sanju responds by saying that attending church is a basic right being a Christian and why should he leave it.
âI and my fiancĂ© were ready to get married in the Registrar office, but this is our basic right to get married in our church. As per the canon, nobody has any right to block a believer from following the holy sacrament of the church,â he said.
Meanwhile, there were reports that journalists of Janam TV were attacked by the church community on December 19. Janam TV claimed that their staff was admitted in hospital due to serious injuries after the assault.
But Perumaadan denies the charges and said that they only dissuaded the journalists who tried to enter inside the church, where the parish council meeting was being held.
âOnly selected members of the parish were allowed inside the parish council, we donât allow any others then how will we allow media to enter. We did not assault them, we only asked them not to enter. They also brought some RSS-BJP workers for their support,â he said.
âMany journalists came here and took the story, then why should we assault Janam TV (they are apparently backed by BJP) alone, it is all their political techniques,â he alleged.
Sanju said that the issue happened when Janam TV tried to shoot something from within the church, where only people close to the church can enter.
âThey say we brought RSS workers and Janam TV, but we have no relation to the issue, Sanju said.
With just few days left for the wedding, any action taken by the church or parishioners will be watched keenly.