Manipur: Catholic schools shut down after threats from insurgent groups

Manipur: Catholic schools shut down after threats from insurgent groups

TNT Bureau 1 min ago

IANS | IMPHAL, February 6, 2018: Half of the Catholic missionaries especially the educational institutions have fled Manipur due to threats from insurgent groups in the last one week, police source said.

Around eight catholic schools located in the heart of Imphal, the capital town have threatened to close down in the wake of militant groups slapping on each of them an extortion demand of Rs 500,000. When the schools expressed their inability to pay the sum, the militants hiked it to Rs 2 crore.

This has led to a situation where the school authorities have expressed inability to run them. In fact, some of the Catholic principals and headmasters have already left Imphal for fear of life, including the principal of Don Bosco School, Imphal.

Christian missionaries in Manipur have been targeted by the militants since 1990. During the last decade more than a dozen Christian missionaries have been targeted and killed in Manipur, ringing alarm bells all over the north-east.

Father Tommy Manjaly, principal of the same Catholic School at Canchipur has been the latest such victims. Father Tommy was attacked by a group of unidentified gunmen within the school campus on February 2, evoking large-scale protests in the state.

Earlier, Father Sajan Jacob Chittinapilly, the assistant parish priest of St Joseph Parish at Sugunu in Thoubal district was shot dead on December 2.

According Manipur’s director general of police, DS Grewal, the outlawed People’s Liberation Army and the Revolutionary Front combine is behind this extortion drive. “It has created a fear psychosis among the Christian missionaries working in the state.” Manipur has a large Christian population but the majority of the people are Meitei, who follow Vaishnavism.

The DGP also revealed that some Catholic organisations had indeed paid money to militant groups in the past, thus raising their expectations to collect more. “We have information that some schools had paid money in the past,” Grewal told newspersons in Imphal, refusing to reveal any names. The DGP also said though the authorities have stepped up security measures around the schools, “it is not possible to provide security cover to every individual.” Several Catholic missionaries have also left the state following the renewed pressure, he informed.

A senior missionary in Imphal, who refused to be named, however denied the DGP’s version that any missionary school had paid money to the militants. “We have been serving the state and its people under tremendous pressure, but hardly do we get the kind of security that we need,” he lamented.

Christianity, incidentally, is more than one hundred years old in Manipur, and there are about 800 Christian missionaries from outside the north-eastern region working in different schools, churches and other institutions in the state.

In fact, the killing of Father Jacob Chittinapilly had led to massive protests in the entire state, with a massive central rally organized in Imphal on December 10, which incidentally was also International Human Rights Day.

Meanwhile, Rev S K Hikey, chairman of the All Manipur Catholic Organisation and Rev Edmund Chiphang, president of the All Manipur Catholic Union, have rushed separate memorandums to the President and prime minister urging them to immediately intervene in the situation.

Rev Joseph Mittathany, archbishop of the Imphal diocese has also sent a fax message to the President and prime minister with a similar appeal.

While most incidents of militants targeting Catholic institutions used to earlier occur in the outlying districts of the state, the schools in the capital are now increasingly becoming soft targets.

Featured image: Representation

source : the north east today

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