New Delhi: The priests of Syro-Malabar Ernakulam archdiocese on Thursday began an indefinite hunger strike inside Archbishop’s House in Kerala demanding the removal of Church head Cardinal George Alencherry.

Police have been deployed in the area to curb the situation outside the Bishop’s house.

Earlier this month, some 261 priests of the Church in Ernakulam and Angamaly archdioceses had raised the banner of revolt seeking withdrawal of suspension of two bishops and threatened to intensify the stir if the demand was not heeded.

The dissident priests asserted that the Cardinal, who is accused in 14 cases, should not preside over the Synod meeting of bishops, scheduled in August. Cardinal Alencherry has been accused of forgery in a dubious land deal that rattled the 200-year-old Church in controversies since June 2018.

Following the land scam controversies, the Vatican had removed Alencherry as the archbishop, however, he was reinstated as the head of the Ernakulam archdiocese on June 23 this year.

In a dramatic turn of events, the priests who do not even have a professional union, are hell-bent on defying the Cardinal at his seat of power. They also said that they would not withdraw protest unless their demands were met.

Father Jose Vailikodath, the spokesperson of the faction told news agency IANS, “We met the Cardinal. He was unable to give us a satisfactory reply on how he was able to get back the administrative powers and also about the reason for suspension of two bishops. We then decided to begin the indefinite protest.”

The agitated priests have also demanded the withdrawal of the case registered against senior priests, alleged to have made fake documents to malign the Cardinal.