The Verkodu Parish in Tamil Nadu, which organises the annual Indian pilgrimage to Katchatheevu for the St. Antony’s Church festival has decided to boycott the festival, scheduled for March 11 and 12 in protest against the gunning down of fisherman K. Britjo (21) on Monday night, while fishing on the high seas, The Hindu newspaper reported.
A day after the fishing community launched a massive protest against the shooting incident here on Tuesday, Verkodu parish priest Rev. Fr. L. Sagayaraj, the chief coordinator of the festival, announced that Indian pilgrims would boycott the festival to register their protest against the killing of the young fisherman.
“This is the festival of the fishing community and there is no point in taking part in the festival when there is no guarantee to the lives of the fishermen,” Fr Sagayaraj told The Hindu . “The Lankan authorities have spoiled the very sanctity of the festival by resorting to the inhuman act,” he said adding the parish would not lead Indian pilgrimage to the festival till the Indian government found a lasting solution to the issue.
Last year also, there were attempts to jeopardise Indian pilgrimage to Katchatheevu after the Lankan navy had arrested Rameswaram fishermen and confiscated their boats when the festival was around the corner and the present incident was part of the conspiracy to prevent Indian participation in the church festival, he alleged.
In a communication, Fr. Sagayaraj said the situation was not conducive for participating in the festival as the gunning down of the fishermen has sent shock waves among the fishing community. He said the Jaffna diocese, which organised the festival, has been informed of the situation. The Indian pilgrims who had registered for the festival were being advised to avoid coming to the fishing jetty here, he said.
This year, a record number of 4,991 pilgrims, including 3,610 men and 1,118 women had registered for the festival. The parish has also made ready a 35-foot high teak wood flag mast and four-foot tall statue of St. Antony to be installed at the newly built church in Katchatheevu.
The local fishermen had also collected funds and donated monstrances for worship and chalice for the holy mass. “We will take the flag mast and other holy items as and when the situation became normal,” Fr. Sagayaraj said. (Colombo Gazette)