Priest's Death in India Linked to Land Dispute

Bangalore Bishop Says Hindu Extremism Had No Role

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BANGALORE, India, OCT. 15, 2003 The recent death of a Catholic priest in the state of Karnataka was not connected to Hindu extremism, but land disputes, says a bishop.

Bishop Ignatius Paul Pinto of Bangalore made that statement today to the Missionary Service News Agency, referring to the murder of Swami Sanjeevananda on Oct. 6 in Narasapura Belur, in the district of Kolar, around 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Bangalore.

«He was the only Christian in a range of many miles. … The Hindus did not even know that he was a Catholic priest. So how could they have attacked him for religious reasons?» asked Bishop Pinto.

Emphasizing that Swami Sanjeevananda, 52, was not incardinated in the Diocese of Bangalore, the prelate said the priest on his own initiative had founded an ashram — a place of prayer and meditation of Hindu origin, adopted by some Christian monks — in which he lived alone.

«The structure included two rooms and he had bought a total of 17 hectares of land. It was in fact over the land that he had entered in dispute with neighbors,» the bishop said.

On Oct. 6 about 20 people armed with axes and sticks showed up on his land. The leader of the group was a man named Narayanappa, who owns a lot of plots in the area, explains the bishop. The priest fled on seeing the assailants, but they caught up with him and beat him to death.

«He had caused much animosity, also because in the past he had reported a local entrepreneurial company to authorities for polluting,» the bishop said. «The business was in fact closed down, causing many locals to become enemies» of his.

More than 20 people were arrested in the murder, the Missionary Service News Agency said.

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