Odisha’s Easter day incidents:
Bhubaneswar: A civil society fact-finding team that investigated attacks on churches and a Hindu temple in Odisha on Eastern Sunday sees evidence of conspiracy to divide Christian and Hindu tribal communities in the eastern Indian state.
“The attacks were highly planned and purposefully executed. It was well planned to create fear and tension among Christians and others,” the five-member team told a press conference on April 23 in Bhubaneswar, the state capital.
The team released its findings on the incidents after visiting Rajgangpur, Kutra and Kuarmunda block of Sundargarh district on April 11.
The team investigated the vandalism of church and temple and discussed the incidents with local people.
The team first visited Kuarmunda block of Salangabahal Church where they saw the broken Marian statue at the main gate of a church. The glass frame of the grotto was also broken. The statue was thrown into a river 2.5 km away.
The incident occurred on April 1, the Easter Sunday, and a fisherman found the statue on the river bank two days later. He informed the police and brought the statue back to the same place.
A woman in the neighborhood told the team that the incident took place at 11:30 pm. She heard the sound of glassware breaking but did not dare to get out of the house to check.
The team then visited a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva at Laxmiposh of Rajgangpur block where the head of a bull statue was crushed in the same night.
The team talked to Julia Minz, the woman priest of the temple, and Naveen Minz a member of the temple committee that later immerse the idol in the river.
Juel Oraon, a parliamentarian, and Mangala Kishan, the local legislator, had built the temple for Kishan Adivasis with government aid.
Some local people told the team that the incident occurred due to the opposition of George Tirkey, another legislator, to the Provisions of the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act.
The team’s next stop was at Gyanpali village of Rajangpur block where some miscreants attacked a Marian shrine around 1 am on April 2. The attackers first broke the flower pots and the glass panel before vandalizing the statue.
Sasmita Tirkey, a neighbor, said she heard the breaking sound and came out and saw that a man holding a bag in the hand going away slowly.
She called out the neighbors and four young men with two motorcycles tried to follow the person. They then saw the church of Bihabandh burning and woke up parish priest Father Bipin Kishor Majhi and others sleeping in the church campus. They put out the fire first and looked for miscreants, but found none.
The parish then filed a complaint at the local police station. The police provided security to all attacked places but an atmosphere of suspicion prevails in the district, the probe team said.
On April 7, another Marian statue was found crushed in front of Mother Mary Church at Laphoorbeda, Dahijira of Kutra block.
The local police have detained a person but neighbors say he is mentally unsound.
Biramitra Minz, vice president of the parish committee, and other villagers say the incidents are aimed at to disturb peace, solidarity and brotherhood prevailing among both Hindu and Christian tribal people living in the area.
The visiting team too agrees and says the miscreants purposely attacked the temple to divide local community on the caste basis.
The team comprised Dhirendra Panda, a human right activist, Abhiram Mallick, vice president of an outfit for indigenous peoples, Father Ajay Kumar Singh, another human rights activist, Amiya Pandav, a journalist, and Anil Kumar Mallick, civil rights activists.
They suspect the involvement of corporate lobbies behind the incidents to break the unity among tribal people so that it becomes easy to implement the PESA Act of 1996 that ensures self-governance through traditional Gram Sabhas (village councils) for people living in the Scheduled Areas of India.
The team first visited Kuarmunda block of Salangabahal Church where they saw the broken Marian Shrine at the main gate. The glass frame was broken and then the shrine too was broken and thrown into the river which was 2 ½ KM away from the incident place. After two days the broken statue was found by the fisherman from the bank of river and informed the police and brought back to the same place.
According to a local Woman the incident has taken place at 11.30pm on 1st April 2018.She heard the crushed sound of glassware but she couldn’t dare to get out of the house to see the situation.
After that team had reached to Laxmiposh of Rajgangpur block where the head of the statue of the bull which was kept in front of the Shiva temple was crushed with stone by unknown miscreants in the same night. Although the statue was immersed later in the river by the temple committee, but when talked to Ms. Julia Minz a lady priest of the temple and Naveen Minz a member of the temple committee, it was known that ,there Kishan Adivasis are Hindu and this temple is being built by MP Juel Oram and MLA Mangala Kishan with government aid.
Though it is said that the incident occurred due to the opposition of MLA George Tirkey standing with the PESA act but behind this there is a conspiracy to create conflict between Hindu tribals and Christian tribals which is seen clearly.
On 2nd April at about 1am to 1.30 am (midnight) some miscreants have broken the flower pots first and the glass panel and then statue of Marian shrine of village Gyanpali of Rajangpur block was removed and crushed at the spot.
A woman named Sasmita Tirkey staying at the side heard the broken sound and came out and saw that a man holding a bag in the hand going away slowly. She called out the neighbours from the sleep and four young men with two motorcycles tried to follow the person. But they saw the church of Bihabandh at a short distance burning and awoke the parish priest Fr. Bipin Kishor Majhi and others who were sleeping behind and together they extinguished the fire. They went to find out the miscreants but could not find anyone. Later regarding this the written complaint was logged in the police station, the police provided security at the incident occurred places but there was an atmosphere of doubt everywhere. According to the vice president of the church Cum Ex Zilla Parishad member Biramitra Minz and other villagers it is a conspiracy to break down the peace, solidarity and brotherhood which is prevailing among them from the existence of the village.
After 5 days of this incident means on 7th April some one broke the statue of Mother Mary of the church of Laphoorbeda ,Dahijira of Kutra block was thrown and crushed infront of the Church. According to the eyewitness the Kutra Police has detained a person but without proper medical enquiry and medical check up they say the person is mentally imbalance.
The team after meeting and discussing with many persons found out from the incidents these following points:-
- To create differences, doubts and enmities between the Hindu Adivasi and Christian Adivasi the temple was purposely broken. The purpose also to bring the Caste based division.
- In the same night the entire incident has occurred and there is more than one person involved in it.
- It is highly planned and purposefully executed.
- It is well planned to create fear and tension among the Christian. The purpose is to create religion based division.
- This is the purpose of the Company, Corporate to establish communal attitude and to break the unity among the Adivasis with the PESA Act.
The Fact Finding team members are Mr.Dhirendra Panda,Human Right activist,Mr.Abhiram Mallick Vice president of Mulnivasi Samata Parishad,Ajay Kumar Singh Human Rights Activist, Mr.Amiya Pandav Journalist and Mr.Anil Kumar Mallick.