By Jose Kavi
New Delhi, September 11, 2019: A Jesuit junior college in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand remains shut even a week after it was attacked by a mob.
“We cannot open the college. Everything has been destroyed,” Jesuit Father Thomas Kuzhively, secretary of St. John Berchmans Inter College, Mundli Tinpahar, told Matters India over phone on September 11.”
The college is 38 km south of Sahibganj, a major town in Jharkhand state, and is managed by the Jesuit’s Dumka-Raiganj province.
Father Kuzhively said “no concrete action” has been taken against any culprit even after eight days.
Earlier in the day, the college authorities emailed appeals to the governor and chief minister of Jharkhand state, the chairpersons of the National Human Rights Commission and National Commission for Minorities and legal authorities in the country requesting immediate action against the attackers.
Narrating the incident, Father Kuzhively said some 500 people, mostly suspected activists of rightwing Hindu groups, vandalized the college on September 3, a day after some day-scholars had an altercation with students living in an adjacent hostel for tribal children.
“Why is nobody arrested even after eight days? Are we not giving the anti-socials upper hand by being passive to their cynical activities?” asks Father Kuzhively, who wrote the appeal.
He said they are still under tension although the administration has posted police personnel at the college.
The priest also said the mob had come to campus with lethal weapons such as sticks, chains, iron roads, knives, and pistols, and beat selectively tribal boys of the Loyola Adivasi hostel.
He said two hostelers were seriously wounded and their lives were saved by the timely intervention of nuns serving the college and hostels.
Although an ambulance was called in, the mob did not allow the injured to be taken to the hospital. “Later on, the police took them to Rajmahal Hospital for treatment,” he added.
The Jesuit priest said the mob broke all window panes, twisted the blades of ceiling fans, damaged drain pipes, furniture, electricity items, and sound system.
The mob also tried to molest the college girls and the women staff, Father Kuzhively said.
College principal Jesuit Father Nobor Bilung tried to talk to the mob, but it tried to attack him. “He just escaped from a hit on his head. They were not in the mood of listening to anyone,” the secretary recalled.
After attacking the college, the mob went to the hostel building and destroyed everything there.
They smashed CCTV cameras, notice boards, chairs, benches, pictures hung on the wall, and whatever they saw.
Not satisfied, they broke open the grilled gate of the veranda where motorbikes were kept. They smashed four bikes and broke open the hostel director’s office room.
The mob also took away cash kept in the office drawers and three mobile phones meant for the common use of the hostel boys.
The police personnel who came the local Tinpahar station then chased the attackers. However, taking advantage of the small number of the force, the mob regrouped with many more outsiders joining them.
“Obviously, some outside forces had apparently instigated them,” Kuzhively alleged.
The mob again attacked the college and the hostel.
When more forces came from other stations, the mob threw stones at them. “Some police personal, including an inspector, were injured.”
The mob overturned a police jeep, flattened tires of their vehicles and smashed all glasses.
Three nuns stood at the hostel gate resisting the mob’s attempt to go upstairs where some 200 students were hiding, Father Kuzhively said.
The mob left after four hours of mayhem, he added.
“The principal and the whole administration were shocked and stood helpless. None of their efforts could calm the violent mob,” Father Kuzhively lamented.
He said it was painful for the principal to see some his students among the mob destroying the same college they studied.
The college filed a First Information Report mentioning the names of 26 students who led the mob
”We could not name the outside persons as we could not identify them” the college secretary said.
He estimated the college loss at 1.5 million rupees.