Indian Bishops lament apathy and silence on violence in Manipur
By Lisa Zengarini
A top team of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) concluded on Monday a two-day visit to the riot-hit areas of Manipur, where it has distributed relief items to the population.
The delegation included, among others, the President of the CBCI, Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, the Conference’s deputy secretary general, Father Jervis D’Souza, Father Paul Moonjely, executive director of Caritas India, and Archbishop Dominic Lumon of Imphal.
First official CBCI visit to Manipur since the outbreak of the violence
It was the first CBCI official team to visit the north-eastern Indian State since the communal violence between Kuki tribal people and the majority Meitei people erupted on 3 May.
The violence is still ongoing and so far more than 160 people have been killed and tens of thousands left homeless, while as many as 349 churches and institutions have been destroyed or damaged.
A statement from the CBCI says the team visited several areas hit by the violence 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 as heart-wrenching” to see the places deserted and said 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.”
Church's response to the crisis
The statement also says Caritas India has responded to “this unprecedented crisis” from the beginning by providing relief assistance and supporting the relief camps in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Diocesan Social Services Society (DSSS), the Social Service Wing of the Archdiocese of Imphal. The agency has so far provided relief assistance worth 30 million rupees (330,928 euro)
The statement further says the Church in India has responded to the Manipur crisis by way of prayer, organizing peace rallies and mobilizing resources to support the affected people, as called for by the CBCI.
Prolonged apathy of law enforcement agencies
While expressing deep sadness about the prolonged violence in Manipur, and condemning “all forms of violence, atrocities and attacks”, the Bishops’ delegation decried the “prolonged silence and apathy of the law enforcement agencies” in containing it.
They also appealed to the government “to uphold the secular fabric of our country, reinforce constitutional values and cultivate an environment of peaceful co-existence of various communities.”
The CBCI's delegation's visit took place five days after a video started circulating on social media showing two women being paraded naked and later gang raped. The incident was filmed on 4 May, but was shared on social media only in recent days.
The video has triggered national outrage prompting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak about the violence Manipur for the first time.