Attack on priests, nuns and Christians in Assam

We, the Catholic Christian Community of Upper Assam strongly condemn the demeaning incident in which a section of the locals of Kamalabari town in Majuli subdivision of Jorhat district ill-behaved with the priests, nuns and members of our community on January 24,2009. We take strong exception to the incident, where members of our community, who were returning after attending a religious function, were taken into custody and harassed and few of them even assaulted on baseless grounds. The unacceptable harassment meted out to the community has gravely hurt the religious sentiments of Christians. We strongly protest the gross violation of the human rights and dignity of the people.
The fact is that the Christian people numbering around five hundred were returning from Jengraimukh, Saint Paul’s school after participating in a religious ceremony in which a member of the Mising Community, Mr. Hemanto Pegu was consecrated a priest of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Christians from various places of Jorhat, Golaghat, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar and Tinsukia districts had been there to witness the ordination/ consecration of Hemanta Pegu and were traveling back by jeeps, trucks and buses. At around 2.45pm when they reached the Kamalabari Charali, some locals including women stopped the vehicles and asked for the reasons of their coming to the Island. When they told them that they had come to see the consecration of Hemanto Pegu, they shouted, “Why are you converting the tribals? You beef eaters, never come back again and if you do come, we will cut you into pieces and throw you into the Brahamaputra.” With such threats and abusing languages they allowed the jeeps to go.
Some of the priests who were in the group are: Fr. Jose Varghese, the former Principal of St. Paul’s School, Jengraimukh, Fr. K. A. Thomas, presently, the Director of I-Card Jorhat and many other priests and nuns and Church dignitaries.
After a while Fr.Caesar Henry, the principal of St.Antony’s High School, Mariani and Fr.G.P.Amalraj, the principal of St.Xavier’s High school, Duliajan came in a hired Sumo and followed by two buses and a truck. As soon as they reached the Komalabari petrol pump, the priests were pulled out from the sumo and manhandled. They kicked and punched on their stomach. They shouted slogan, “they are the missionaries, beat them and kill them” they used abusive languages and mocked at them and told to walk all the way to the Ferry Ghat.
The Christian nuns and girls pleaded to the mob not to kick and beat priests and they tried to protect them from further harm. Then the mob rushed to the bus and stopped the bus, told the people to get down from the bus. They were told to hold their ears and tell, “they will not come to Majuli again”
The men were beaten and Kicked and shouted at them with abusive words like, “you Chai bhagan people, you are worth for two rupees and why did you come here; you, the beef eaters, did you come to eat beef here,” though the people pleaded and asked them not to beat, they were mercilessly beaten.
The children got panic and cried. Even today many women and children are in deep trauma. They could not imagine such mob attack upon them for no reason. Then they were told to put their heads down and catch their ears and walk bare footed from Kamalabari to the Ferry Ghat. Like the slaves of the pre-independent India, men, women and children walked to the Ferry Ghat. As they were walking, the Kamalabari people abused them verbally. Then came Fr.Victor Toppo, the then principal of St.Paul’s School, Jengraimukh on a bike. He was stopped and kicked and beaten badly. And also a priest from Don Bosco school, Jorhat was manhandled and beaten. Some students of Holy Cross School, Naojan sustained injuries in stone pelting incident.
We seek to explain to the media and to the people of the state that the Christians were not on their mission to convert the tribals as alleged but using this opportunity when the first Mishing priest was getting ordained, they had made their first ever visit to this world famous island.
This brutal attack is a slur on the harmonious co-existence of the people of Assam.
May I request the media persons to publish this press release in their esteemed dailies to bring out the truth.
Fr. William Horo, Place:Dibrugarh, Director of Media communication,
Dated: 27th Jan2009, Diocese of Dibrugarh, Bishop’s House,PB No.50, Dibrugarh – Assam, 786 001

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