The Catholic Church in Kerala has announced to form a unit of retired military and paramilitary men called the Gabriel Sena, who are said to act as "guardians of faith and warriors of ideals". The group's members will be deployed for the first time in December during a farmers' rally organised by the church in Kannur.
The Gabriel Sena's director Fr Mathew Ashariparambil said that the group has no communal agenda after the formation of the Sena raised eyebrows with some questioning if the Catholic clergy of the state was on the path of "arming youth through a military outfit".
Speaking to the media Ashariparambil said, “The Sena is by no mean as an outfit to protect sentiments of the Catholic community. Arming enthusiastic youth is not the aim. The intention is merely restricted to deploying a group of volunteers to the rally scheduled in December in Kannur to highlight the issues of the farming community, especially those in the hilly areas of the state.”
There are several questions raised as Kerala has a distant memory of Christopher Sena organised during the days of Liberation Struggle that aimed to topple the first communist ministry in the state. Other outfits like the Hanuman Sena and Ayyappa Sena were formed as a result of fear that beliefs and sentiments of the certain communities were at stake. Gabriel Sena is also feared to be one such group with lesser regard for democratic values.
However, after uproar over the group's creation, the church has abandoned the idea of floating Gabriel Sena. The clergy has also expressed resentment over the issue taking a befuddle turn, dragging their members to controversy.
“We are dropping the whole plan. The first meeting of the organisation scheduled on November 15 has been called off,” said the Sena director. The Director of the Archdiocese of Tellicherry is also of the opinion that the church is in no need of an outfit to protect the Catholic faith and sentiments in Kerala. The formation of the Sena was announced at a time when the clergy has been under scanner over a number of controversies — from sex scandals to land rows.
Recently, a section, belonging to the archdiocese of Ernakulam, had marched to the Cardinal House in Kochi demanding the resignation of Cardinal George Alencherry, who is embroiled in a land row. Last year, the arrest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Jalandhar diocese, who was accused of raping a nun, came after continuous pressure from nuns and other groups.
(With agency inputs)