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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Maa Kali murti desecrated in Meghalaya

Two murtis were desecrated and damaged in a temple situated next to a Hindu crematorium in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong on Sunday night, reports Sentinel Assam.

The suspected hate crime occurred at the Marwari Samshan Bhoomi (crematorium) in Mawbah area. The crime scene unit of the Meghalaya Police visited the site and collected evidence on Monday.

The chief priest of the cremation ground, Atmaram Giri, said that he noticed broken pieces of the murtis of Bhairavi (Maa Kali) and Bhairava (manifestation of Bhagwan Shiva) on Monday morning. The priest said that when he came around 5.30 am the main gate was already left open by someone. Later, he found the damaged murtis and surmised that the incident had happened on Sunday night.

NorthEast Live reports that that numerous such vandalisms have taken place in the past in the premises of the crematorium.

As per latest reports, Meghalaya Police are yet to arrest those responsible for the desecration. “We are yet to ascertain the miscreants who are behind this criminal act. Investigation is on the matter,” a senior police official said on Tuesday.

The Marwari Samshan Bhoomi and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) have lodged separate FIRs with the local police, while members of the Central Puja Committee, the apex Hindu body in Meghalaya, had met Deputy Commissioner of East Khasi Hills district, Isawanda Laloo and sought her intervention to take action against the culprits.

The VHP said the incident has hurt the sentiments of the devotees in particular and Hindu population in general and called for investigation into the incident and apprehension of the culprits. Meanwhile, the Shillong All Faiths Forum has denounced the vandalism.

History of anti-Hindu/anti-Dharma prejudice

Christians (74.6%) constitute the majority of Meghalaya’s population as per Census 2011; Hindus are 11.53%, Muslims 4.4% and so-called Other Religions at 8.7% (such as Songsarek of the Garo or Niamtre of the Khasi tribes). These unique vanvasi/tribal ‘Other Religions’ and traditions of Meghalaya, which thrived and co-existed for millennia with other Dharmic sampradayas, are now endangered as most tribes have converted to Christianity.

In 2020, A Kali temple built by Hindus of Merenggapara in West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya was destroyed, allegedly by Christian extremists. The year before, a similar incident was reported from Kongthong in East Khasi Hills district where a Niam Khasi sanctum sanctorum was vandalized and desecrated by Church elders and others who interrupted an annual ritual by practitioners of the Khasi tribal religion while police and a local magistrate stood by mutely.

In 2020, as violence flared up during anti-CAA protests that needlessly swept the state (97% of Meghalaya is exempt from the Act as the area falls under Schedule VI of the Constitution), the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), a banned Christian tribal terror group, threatened ‘mass bloodshed’ if Hindu-Bengalis in Ichamati and Majai areas in East Khasi Hills district, Meghalaya do not leave within one month.

Anti-Hindu hate, discrimination against non-Christian vanvasis, denigration of ‘idol-worship’, communal calls by Church before elections – all these have been noted from North East states like MeghalayaNagalandMizoramArunachal.

Since its inception as separate state in 1972, Meghalaya has a chequered past when it comes to ethnic conflicts. More often than not, it’s  the non-tribal population, comprising mostly of Bengali, Nepali, Marwari and Hindi-speaking Hindus, who are at the receiving end.

The first major incident of religious intolerance occurred in 1979 when some Khasi youth desecrated a Maa Kali murti. Khasi vigilantes, egged on by the evangelical Church and with state-granted immunity, started targeting the Dkhars (pejorative name for non-tribals) i.e. Bengali Hindus.

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