KOCHI: Fr Davis Chirammel, who hit the headlines eight years ago for donating one of his kidneys to a poor Hindu patient, on Monday protested against the growing number of hartals in the state in a unique way - he tied himself to a cross and lay on it with his eyes bound, for eight hours.
Fr Chirammel, who lay on the cross from 10 am to 5 pm at Vylathur, near Kunnamkulam in Thrissur, told ‘Express’ that he chose to protest on this way as hartals were a “useless form of protest”.
“The concept of hartal resembles that of creating havoc in one’s own house. When I heard this (the hartal on Monday) was the 100th hartal this year, I felt it was impudent that I act now.I have been thinking of such a protest for two years now. However, there was reluctance from many quarters. This time around I decided to do it myself,” said Fr Chirammel.
The protest was staged in Gandhian style - a peaceful protest against hartal on a hartal day, he said.
Fr Chiramel said hartal was a dangerous trend as it hindered the life of people. He is more concerned about the life of patients. “Though hospital services are available on hartal days, its reach is only in cities. Patients with severe heart or kidney ailments, those who have cancer, will be affected. If a person is taking his last breath and asks for his/her children, how will they manage it on a hartal day? Humanitarian grounds must be considered when such a protest is staged,” he said.
The protest garnered positive and negative responses from people. Around 30 lakh people reacted to his post about the protest in the social media.“I hope this protest opens the eyes of at least some people. If one of them decides not to hold a hartal, I would consider it as an achievement. I am not surprised by the reaction in the social media. There is an underlying distaste towards hartals in society,” said Fr Chirammel.
‘People’s backing made UDF protest a success’
Claiming the people had wholeheartedly taken the message conveyed by the hartal and supported it, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala blamed the Chief Minister and the police for trying to to provoke the UDF men and blowing up isolated incidents to give an impression of violence. ‘’Despite provocation, by and large, the hartal was peaceful. For the first time in the state, the police ventured to crush a hartal, while the Chief Minister himself led the drive,’’ he told reporters. “The Opposition was forced to observe the hartal since the Centre was not willing to slash the fuel prices in tune with the falling global crude prices and the state government was not bothered either to forgo the additional sales tax and provide some relief when a model set by the former Oommen Chandy Government is here.’’