Indian authorities arrested a Catholic bishop and five priests from Kerala, southern India, on charges of illegal sand mining in the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district court remanded all the six in judicial custody, although Bishop Samuel Mar Irenios Kaattukallil of Pathanamthitta and Father Jose Chamakala were admitted to a hospital in Tirunelveli after they fell ill.
The other priests — Father Shaji Thomas Manikulam, George Samuel, Jijo James, and Jose Kalaviyal — have been lodged in Nanguneri sub jail in Tirunelveli.
The accused allegedly extracted sand illegally from the Tamirabarani (copper jar) river near Pottal, a village in Tirunelveli district, some 625 km southwest of Chennai, Tamil Nadu capital.
A statement from Father Joel P John Poweth, public relations officer of the Pathanamthitta diocese, said the diocese owns 300 acres of land on the Ambasamudram taluq in Tirunelveli district.
The town is situated in the foothills of Western Ghats on the northern bank of Tamirabarani river.
Father Poweth said the diocese leased its land in Tirunelveli to one Manuel George for cultivation.
“The diocesan officials could not go there for the past two years because of the COVID pandemic,” he said.
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