The attacks against Christian Adivasis in Chhattisgarh took an ugly turn yesterday as a mob allegedly comprised of Hindu right-wing groups vandalised a church in Narayanpur and attacked the police severely injuring Superintendent of Police (SP) Sadanand Kumar who along with his team went there to pacify the people who were protesting against alleged conversion by Christian missionaries.
While Kumar got a head injury, at least five other police personnel had minor injuries and were released after preliminary treatment, reports PTI.
The incident took place around afternoon when a mob gathered near Viswadeepti school to protest against a clash that broke out at Ekda village between two communities over the alleged religious conversion by the Christian missionaries. Inspector General of Police (IG) Sundarraj P told PTI, “Around 2,000 people were present for a meeting held in Narayanpur. Local tribal leaders Rupsai Salam, Narayan Markam and few others were leading the gathering”.
He also added that after the meeting the crowd got divided in two parts and armed with sticks and stones, they entered the church within the school premises and vandalised it. Upon receiving information as the police reached there to disperse the mob, they were also attacked.
SP Kumar while talking to the reporters from Hospital where he was being treated for head injuries told, “I rushed to the spot with other officials and tried to pacify the protestors. They seemed convinced and were about to return, but suddenly someone hit me with a stick on my head.”
Referring to a meeting that the administration had with the protestors, before the demonstration, Narayanpur collector Ajeet Vasant said that the community leaders assured them of peaceful protest but it turned violent. However, the locals have accused the police of inaction and said that it was due to them that the Hindu right wing group could garner such strength.
While talking to Outlook, Suman Mandvi (name changed on request) says, “The attacks on us went on undeterred despite several police complaints. On Saturday, they attacked our brothers in Gorrah village. As the gathering in the church lost their temper, they also attacked a few of them. This news of clash spread quickly and on Sunday, the right-wings gathered people from nearby districts and came on 150 bikes with sticks and other weapons. They then brutally attacked our people across villages.”
After the attack, hundreds of Christian Adivasi fled to Jungle and contacted the police but in vain. Then, they tried to connect to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) upon whose intervention the police took up the matter and tried to pacify the crowd. However, Mandvi adds, “On Sunday evening they blocked the road and police did nothing at all. On Monday, the situation culminated to the attacks on churches.”
Another social activist Vijay Kumar (name changed on request) told Outlook, “They not only vandalised the church in the school, the mob got scattered and then demolished another three churches in the villages namely Kodagaon, Bandapal and Amasara.”
Some videos received by Outlook, not yet verified, show people barging into churches and destroying properties with sticks. Had police earlier taken action, the situation wouldn’t have been like this, adds Mandvi, who has been supporting the homeless people with the basic rations and other resources. At least 1000 people had left their home out of fear and are now living in different parts of the district.
Chandan Kashyap, the Congress MLA of Narayanpur while talking to Outlook said, “We have seen the videos of clashes and this is very unfortunate. I am currently in Assembly as it is on session and I have already informed the CM yesterday evening about the happenings.”
On being asked, whom he thinks is behind all these, he denied naming any organization but said, “Look, still now we don’t know who are doing this. But we have told SP and Collector to properly investigate the issue and book the offenders. I will go back to Naryanpur and will talk to the local leaders soon. But there must be some outsiders who are provoking the people.”
Notably, Rupsai Salam, who is named by the IG is the Narayanpur district president of BJP who, the locals allege, were involved in the eviction and forceful gharwapsi of Christian Adivasis for quite a long time. The earlier spate of attacks on the Christian Adivasis on December 18, against which they gathered in front of Narayanpur district collectorate and submitted application to register an FIR also named Ruspsai Salam along with several other Hindu right-wing members.
The fact-finding committee comprising of Mr. Irfan Engineer, Director, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai, Mr. Ashok Verma, Ranchi-based senior journalist, Nicholas Barla, CBCI, New Delhi and Mr. Brijendra Tiwari, Convenor, All India People's Forum Chhattisgarh that independently went to investigate the ongoing violence in their reports also talked about the police inaction. In their reports they note, “The early warning of the campaign to forcibly convert Christians manifested in the month of October however the District Administration ignored the early warning such as the threats and intimidations targeting Christian Adivasis. These intimidations were reported but no action was taken which tantamounted to breach of peace in the locality.”
They also referred to incidents where 21 Adivasi families had been taken to village temple and had been forcibly converted to Hinduism through sprinkling of water and some other rituals. As per the reports, the right-wingers also took away their Bibles and made them chant Hindu sermons. Dhantaraj Tandon of Sarva Anusuchit Jati Samaj told the team that “RSS’s campaigns should be held responsible for attacks on Christian Adivasis”, the report added.
Currently, there is huge police deployment and apparently the situation is under control. However, one of the locals told Outlook, “Hum jaye to jaye kahan. Har jagah se hum mar e kha rahe hai… (We can’t go anywhere. Everybody from every direction is targeting us).