MUMBAI, India – A bishop in India has condemned the “heinous and cowardly” assault on the administrator of a Catholic school in the state of Nagaland.
Salesian Father Arokiasamy “Sam” Savarimuthu was attacked on June 8 at the Don Bosco Higher Secondary School in Mon, a town about 200 miles northeast of the Nagaland state capital of Kohima.
A man named Pushai Konyak visited the school asking for money and attacked the priest by hitting him with a statue of St. Don Bosco has he went to his rooms. He later told police the attack was in revenge from being expelled from the school as a child.
“The man [Konyak] after roaming in the campus for some time, seems to have gone and returned. As Father Sam returned, the man was sitting on the veranda of the house. Father Sam went into the room for going to the toilet and washing. After washing, as Father Sam opened the door, the man hit him on the head with a small statute that was kept in front of the room,” explained Bishop James Thoppil of Kohima.
“Father Sam fell to the ground and when he opened the eyes he saw this man trying to hit him again. Hearing his cry of the father, [Salesian Brother Alexius Tuti and Sacred Heart Sister Reny Catherine] came rushing and saw the man grappling with the father. They separated them, while the others in the campus came in,” the bishop told Crux.
Konyak is alleged to have had a toy gun on his possession and was arrested by the police.
“Father Sam was rushed to the hospital. He received four stitches and after getting some first aid, her was discharged,” Thoppil said.
“The attacker later said that he was mad and wanted money desperately. It seems that he is drug addict, and he used all foul means to get money from people for the same. He said that he was a student of the school, but could not complete the schooling. He was also expelled from the village,” the bishop told Crux.
The Commissioner for Education Diocese of Kohima (CEDOK) issued a statement condemning the assault.
“In spite of the hurdles and unfavorable circumstances, the Church took up the challenge to run the school in order to be beacons of light and knowledge to the people of Mon area. An assault on a simple and unassuming educationist like [Savarimuthu] is not only an attack on a person, but on the very institution of education, in total disregard for the values of society. It has caused a non-erasable stain on the educational history of Mon,” said Father Jacob Charalel, the secretary for CEDOK, in a statement.
“CEDOK condemns the incident in strongest terms and hope that the concerned authorities will ensure that justice is done and no such incident occur to any educationist in the future,” the priest added.
The All Nagaland Private Schools’ Association (ANPSA) also condemned what they called a “barbarous assault.”
“Teachers cannot work competently under such hovering threats to life and liberty,” ANPSA said in a statement.
Nagaland, located in India’s far northeast, is one of India’s poorest states. It also has the highest percentage of Christians in the country, with over 88 percent of its nearly 2 million people professing Christianity.
However, most of the Christians in the state are Baptists, with Catholics making up less than 3 percent of the population.
The Konyak Baptist Bumeinok Bangjüm (KBBB) issued a statement appealing to the people of the state to stop using violence.
“The use of violence, harassment, demand by force, assault on individual or institution and any sort of anti-social elements are not acceptable for a peaceful coexistence,” the Baptist organization said.
“It is a disgraceful state of affairs that despite the sacrifices made by Father Sam in particular and [the Don Bosco school in Mon] in general in the field of education for our Konyak people, some are still resorting to violence,” it continued.
Thoppil said the assailant was probably preying in the goodwill of the Salesian mission in Mon.
“Being a past pupil and feeling sympathy, the fathers used to help him and has even helped him financially. Probably the man took the sympathy and kindness of the school authority as their weakness and hoped to extort more money, and when it was denied, he took the extreme step of physical assault. While condemning such heinous and cowardly act, we sympathize with people thrown to the street due to drug addictions,” the bishop told Crux.