Sahibganj, Jharkhand: Read this. A mob attacks a college. Police are called. The police chase some of them away. Greater mob comes back. More police arrive. Mob throws stones at policeman, damages police vehicles, injures a sub inspector, 2 tribal boys also badly beaten and hospitalized. Witnesses give names of ring leaders, file cases with the police. One week later, not a single arrest! That’s law and order for you. Oh, we forgot to mention one small detail, the hoodlums were allegedly ‘activists’ of some RSS affiliated group.
In the latest of what appears to be a series of attacks on Catholic institutions in Jharkhand, a Jesuit junior college remains shut even a week after it was vandalized by a mob on September 3.
“We cannot open the college. Everything has been destroyed,” Jesuit Father Thomas Kuzhively SJ, secretary of St. John Berchmans Inter College, Mundli Tinpahar, told a Catholic media organization.
The college is 38 km south of Sahibganj, a major town in Jharkhand state, and is managed by the Jesuit’s Dumka-Raiganj province. Sahibganj has a large presence of so-called ‘right-wing’ anti-minority groups.
Father Kuzhively said that the police had taken “no concrete action” against any of the vandals even after eight days. “Why is nobody arrested even after eight days? Are we not giving the anti-socials upper hand by being passive to their activities?” asks Father Kuzhively, who wrote the appeal.
Yesterday, (September 11), 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.
He said that the school community still feels threatened although the district administration has posted a few policemen at the college.
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 students.
The priest also said the mob had come to campus with 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 broke into to the hostel building and destroyed everything there. They destroyed over Rs 15 lakhs of infrastructure and equipment, say the college authorities.
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 came from the local Tinpahar station then chased the attackers. However, taking advantage of the small size of the force, the mob regrouped with many more outsiders joining them.
“Obviously, some outside forces had apparently instigated them,” Kuzhively stated.
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 the windows.
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 of his students among the mob destroying the same college where 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.