Dibrugarh, Dec 16, 2018: Unidentified miscreants have vandalized St Thomas Catholic Church and its grotto in Chapatoli village near Duliajan in Assam.
The incident came to light on the morning of December 15 when villagers were going for their works through the church area. They noticed the church door open and spotted the statue of Mother Mary dislodged from the grotto.
The miscreants also damaged a crucifix after resorting to vandalism inside the church, Johan Lugun, a local resident said.
As the news spread, thousands of people flocked to the village from nearby areas. Police immediately picked up two suspects from the area for questioning.
Local legislator Terosh Gowala, who visited the area, has expressed solidarity with the Christian community. He promised to reinstate the damaged crucifix, Marian statue and other damages in the church.
Meanwhile, Bishop Joseph Aind of Dibrugarh while condemning the attack demanded a high-level inquiry into the incident. The Salesian prelate lamented that certain forces with ulterior motives were seeking to sow seeds of hatred and discord among the peace loving people living in the tea garden enclaves and its periphery areas.
The bishop also said people of all religions have co-existed in peace and harmony in the plantations from pre-independence era. “Only outside forces with vested interests can perpetrate such anti-social acts inside the tea garden area,” he added.
The prelate also demanded that the government set up a high-level inquiry into the incident and guarantee that the culprits, particularly the mastermind, is booked and punished and that peace is restored in the area.
“The government must also ensure security for the Christians especially during the Christmas season,” he demanded.
The incident has revived memories of earlier attacks on the community.
On Jun 20 this year, unidentified miscreants vandalized the Catholic Cathedral Church at Chapaguri in Chirang district and decamped with some valuables.
In June 2016, a parish priest and principal of a missionary school, Fr Sushil John Soren, was attacked by an unidentified person with a machete in Udalguri district’s Bhairabkunda village.
In August 2015, a statue Saint John Bosco, which was to be unveiled by then Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi at the Bharalumukh riverfront, was partially damaged and pushed into the Bharalu by a mob.
According to the Assam religious census of 2011, Christians make up 3.74 percent of the state’s population.
(Sources: Assam Tribune and Telegraph Kolkata)