Christian couple disappears in Kandhamal, paramilitary force suspected

The couple had gone to a hilltop to make phone calls after Sunday services

Bhubaneswar: A Christian couple has been missing in Kandhamal district of Odisha since Sunday. Police have launched a probe after villagers suspected the involvement of a paramilitary force in the couple’s disappearance.

Dhubaleswar and his wife along with other three others had gone to a hilltop after Sunday services on July 26 to make phone calls to their children working in Kerala southern India. They were residents of Pangalipdar village in the district that had seen unprecedented anti-Christian violence seven years ago.

While Dubaleswar and his wife continued to talk on phone, others –Sukant Challanset and his wife, and Jibed Challanset – finished their call and left for their home. As they were coming down, two constables of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) confronted them. Pointing guns at the three, the duo asked about their whereabouts. They explained to the soldiers who they were and why they were on the hill. They also informed the soldiers that Dhubaleswar and his wife were still making phone calls.

The policemen let them go, but three heard gun shots from the hilltop after half. Some 20 villagers got together immediately and wanted to go up to investigate the sound. However, they were afraid of the soldiers. Besides, it had become dark by then.

Since the couple failed to return home that night, the villagers went searching for them next morning. They could not find the couple, but saw blood stains at several places. They also found a man’s vest and two pairs of sleepers. They searched the area thoroughly but did not find the couple.

They then informed local Kotogarh police station about the incident. In their First Information Report, the villagers mentioned that they suspected the CRPF men’s hand in the couple’s disappearance.

The police went to the spot and verified. They also could not find the couple or their bodies.

As Dhubaleswar was a popular Christian leader in the area, his disappearance created panic in the area.

People came in large number and shouted against the police atrocities on the innocent people.

Sushant Naik, a Protestant church leader, told Matters India that he saw hundreds of people blocking roads in Kotogarh and demanding the couple’s bodies.

The couple remained untraced even after two days.

Naik said the couple’s two daughters asked him why both their parents were killed. “At least one parent could have been spared.”

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