“246 churches burnt in 2 day, somebody strong is playing games in Manipur”: Father Jacob G Palackappilly

Manipur violence: In an interview, Fr. Jacob of Kerala Catholic Bishops Council speaks about the selective targeting of Christians, pre-planned attacks on Churches, silence of the authorities and the PM
Image: Arun SANKAR / AFP

Father Jacob G Palackappilly, deputy secretary general, Kerala Catholic Bishops Council has claimed that over the period of two days, a large number of religious attacks were carried out in the state of Manipur, leading to 249 churches belonging to the Meitei Christians being destroyed. In an interview with Rediff.com‘s Shobha Warrier, Father Jacob, the official spokesperson for the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council, sharply criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for the attacks on Christian institutions in Manipur, comparing the ongoing violence in the state to that of the Gujarat riots 2002.

Christians the target of violence:

Fr. Jacob stated in the interview that although the conflict in Manipur is being depicted as one between two tribes, the Christians from both the Kuki and the Meitei communities appear to be the targets of the violence. The churches, Christian institutions, and Christians as a whole had been attacked by the acts of violence, according to Fr. Jacob, who stated that this was also the message they had received from Christian religious leaders in Manipur.

Additionally, as stated by Fr. Jacob, the situation caused the Christians in Manipur to feel apprehensive and uneasy, leading to an exodus from their home as the Kuki Christians went up the hills and the Meiteis moved to the valley. He added that Kerala MP Hibi Eden had previously claimed that even BJP Christian MLAs and followers felt uncertain and worried there.

Negative propaganda, efforts to wipe out the Christian community

Fr. Jacob compared the current negative propaganda being spread about Christians in Manipur to the targeted violence Christians endured in Orissa’s Kandhamal district in 2007, where a planned attack against Christians had occurred after some Hindu organisations started a negative campaign against the Christian community. When the interviewer asked Fr. Jacob to name the people running the said negative campaign in Manipur, Fr. Jacob refused to name anyone, and simply stated that there are certain vested interest groups behind it. He further stated that it is the duty of journalists and the government to expose who these people are.

Nevertheless, Fr. Jacob did say that “The truth is, somebody strong is playing a game behind the violence in Manipur. It is a pre-planned attack on churches, Christian organisations and Christians. By destroying all the structures belonging to one community, somebody wants to wipe out any trace of that community from the history of that place.” According to him, these attacks are happening consciously, and with a motive, as there is only one community being selectively targeted and suffering damages. He then states, “If it is not a pre-planned attack, how it is that in just two nights, 246 churches were burnt down?” 

Deafening silence of the authorities:

Speaking about whether the state government is neglecting the plight of the Christina community, Fr. Jacob maintains that even though more than 35,000 army personnel, state police, and Assam Rifles are stationed in Manipur, churches are still being attacked, showing that the army lacks the authority to intervene. Furthermore, according to Fr. Jacob, the government is being silent about the theft of army weaponry, which begs the question of whether the elected state government, which is responsible for protecting both citizens and their property, has failed terribly.

Fr. Jacob further highlighted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not said anything over the Manipur violence in the two months since it began. “It is very cruel. The prime minister’s silence is frightening. Why is he silent? Who is forcing him to keep quiet? How can a prime minister sit idle and remain silent when people are being brutally murdered? When he is sitting in a responsible position to serve people, how can he keep silent?”


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