Katchatheevu festival | Pilgrims from other States disappointed due to cancellation of festival by Tamil Nadu organisers

Pilgrims from other States who reached Rameswaram were disappointed due to the cancellation of the Katchatheevu festival on February 23, 2024
| Photo Credit: L. Balachandar

A large number of pilgrims from Karnataka and other States, who had planned to go to the two-day annual Katchatheevu festival at St. Antony’s Church, were disappointed as the organisers announced that the programme had been cancelled this year.

For the annual festival which was scheduled to take place on February 23 and 24, over 3,500 pilgrims had registered their names.

After due checks by the authorities, they would sail in mechanised trawlers to the Katchatheevu islet, which is about 20 nautical miles. After overnight stay, the pilgrims would return to the shores here the next day.

However, due to the continued arrests of fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy personnel and the recent jail term orders for the boatmen and fishermen, who repeated the offences, the fishermen associations here had announced indefinite boycott since February 17.

Subsequently, they had also announced to stay away from the two-day St. Antony’s church festival.

The agitators also decided to hand over the government ID cards such as Aadhaar and other documents with the Ramanathapuram District Collector to show their protest. However, the officials persuaded, following which they suspended the plan to take out the march to the District Collectorate two days ago.

In the meantime, on Thursday (February 22), the fishermen associations had announced to organise a relay hunger fast from February 24 (Saturday) at Thangachimadam until the governments intervened and released their jailed fishermen from the island nation.

Pilgrims upset

Unaware about the series of developments here over the last four-five days, when pilgrims from as far as Kolar Gold Field in Karnataka and other cities arrived here in the early hours of Friday, February 23, 2024 were upset on hearing about the cancellation of the voyage.

Watch | How is the St. Antony’s church festival at Katchatheevu celebrated?
| Video Credit:
L. Balachandar

A pilgrim — Antony Ammal from Karnataka said that she, along with her family members and relatives, visited the Katchatheevu islet every year and offered prayers at the famous St. Antony’s Church. “We also take part in the special prayers and be a part of the procession there.” She recalled that she had never missed out even one year and had been a regular visitor to the shrine.

The pilgrims from other cities in Tamil Nadu said the Union and Tamil Nadu governments should have intervened much earlier and solved the issue. “We are disappointed that we could not participate in the church festival,” a couple from Bangalore, said.

A large posse of police men and officers from the State and central agencies were on surveillance duty at the Rameswaram fishing jetty.

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