Catholic bishops have criticized the prolonged silence and apathy of the law enforcement agencies in containing violence in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur.
“It is our earnest appeal that the governance system should uphold the secular fabric of our country, reinforce constitutional values and cultivate an environment of peaceful co-existence of various communities,” said Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Trichur, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).
CBCI sent a team, led by Archbishop Thazhath, to visit conflict-stricken communities in Manipur on July 23 and 24. Among the delegates were the conference’s deputy secretary general Father Jervis D’Souza, and Father Paul Moonjely, executive director of Caritas India, humanitarian response organization of CBCI.
It was the first CBCI official team to visit Manipur where clashes between Kuki tribal people and Meitei people erupted 82 days ago, killing more than 160 people and rendering thousands homeless. As many as 349 churches and institutions have also perished in the violence.
The visit also took place five days after a video surfaced on social media showing two women being paraded naked and later gang raped. The 26-minute video triggered national outrage prompting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak about Manipur for the first time. The incident occurred on May 4, but the world did not know about it until because of a ban on the internet in Manipur.
A statement from the conference’s public relations office says the team visited Kakching, Sugnu area, Pukhao, Canchipur, Sangaiprou among other places and “saw the large-scale destruction of private homes, churches/places of worship, schools and institutions in various places along the way.”
The team described it as “heart-wrenching” to see the places deserted and “seemed like they will not be inhabited in the near future given the mutual mistrust and fear that continues to prevail.”
The team says it “is equally worried as to what is the actual situation and the future of those who have fled from these places and the future of their children, in the midst of all these vulnerabilities.”
The CBCI team distributed relief items in the relief damp at Indoor Stadium, Kakching. and opened a medical camp at Pukhou. Sugnu, which used to be inhabited by more than 1,000 families.
“They had their houses and properties totally destroyed and vandalized. St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School and Parish which rendered educational, social and developmental service to all communities including Kuki-zo, Naga, Meitei and others had been reduced to cinders,” the statement says.
Also destroyed were Holy Redeemer Church in the campus of Catholic School at Canchipur and the Regional Pastoral Training Centre and St. Paul’s Parish at Sangaiprou.
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