BJP demands closure of controversial Kerala prayer centre


Kannur (Kerala) : The Kerala unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Wednesday demanded immediate closure of a Christian prayer centre near Trissur district against which police have filed a case following complaint of irregularities by a court-appointed investigation team.

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“Both the Left and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) are supporting the activities of the prayer centre. We demand the centre be closed down because the police have found a lot of irregularities. This is the Noida of Kerala,” BJP state president P.K. Krishna Das told reporters here.

It was on Monday that the special investigating team had filed a formal complaint against the Muringur Divine Retreat Centre on the basis of the findings of a court-directed probe into allegations of criminal activities there, including unnatural deaths.

The court-appointed special investigation team filed a complaint with the police station here indicting Fr George Pannackal, director of the centre, and 10 other members of the staff, including nuns.

Acting on various complaints, the Kerala High Court had in March 2006 asked Inspector General of Police Vincent M. Paul to submit a report on allegations about criminal activities going on at the divine centre and irregularities in foreign funds received by it.

Speaking to the press, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said that the Communist Party of India-Marxist government has been watching the developments after the high court intervened into the matter.

“We will wait because right now this is being probed directly by the high court,” said Achuthanandan.

Meanwhile, the opposition UDF that met Wednesday said they were not against the ongoing probe into the centre.

“All what we are against was the manner in which the investigating police team made a furore at the time of the investigation. The centre houses a lot of patients and they were badly treated by the police,” UDF convenor P.P. Thankachen told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.

The centre, billed as Asia’s biggest of its kind, was subjected to a surprise inspection by a joint team of police and state health department officials in September last year.

The inspection detected irregularities in the manner in which the centre was treating a large number of patients suffering from depression and alcoholism.

Following the scrutiny, politicians in the state, cutting across party lines, raised a hue and cry while Pannackal urged the court to stop the inspections.

Justice R. Basanth dismissed the petition and ruled that the court has the right to order inspections even if it is a place of worship or prayer.