Bhubaneshwar – “They tried to kill me. They beat me, insulted me, and threatened to kill me,” said Fr Sisirakant Sbhanayak, a Catholic priest in Sukananda village, in Orissa’s Kandhamal District. He was speaking about attacks he suffered during Holy Week. According to the preliminary results of an investigation by G-Udaygiri police, members of Hindu ultranationalist groups tried to disrupt Easter celebrations at the Mary Mother of God Parish. To prevent incidents, the police set up a tight security detail around the church on Easter Sunday.
The story began on 29 March, when Manoj Nayak and Rabindra Nayak as well as others began destroying the path that leads to the church’s Marian grotto. “I told them to stop and they did,” Fr Sisirakant said. However, “they came back the next day with excavating equipment. I told them again not to destroy the path, but this time Manoj and the others started to insult me using filthy language. Deepak Nayak later grabbed me by the neck, hitting me with his fists and threatened to kill me.”
If that was not enough. On 4 April, Manoj Nayak ambushed the priest as he made his way to G. Udaygiri and beat him. Two days later, Rabindra Nayak threatened to kill him.
Fr Sisirakant has been parish priest in Sukananda since 2010. The Mary Mother of God Church has existed for more than 90 years and is part of the Diocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar.
During anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal in 2008, the church building, the priest’s residence and the home of the Missionaries of Charity were looted and set on fire.