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A cardinal controversy

A book release by Cardinal Toppo in Jharkhand brands some tribal communities as enemies.

india Updated: May 09, 2006 17:59 IST

Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo is in the eye of a storm after releasing a book that champions tribal rights and brands some backward communities in Jharkhand as enemies.

The book has been written and edited by former MP Salkhan Murmu who talked about driving away "outsiders" from the state.

The book allegedly contains derogatory remarks against the Mahtos and the Kurmis, two backwards communities that comprise more than 20 percent of the state's population.

It has invited sharp reactions from the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM). On Thursday evening, JMM cadres burnt effigies of the cardinal in Ranchi, where he is based.

Sudhir Mahto, the opposition leader in the assembly and a JMM legislator, and Jamshedpur Lok Sabha MP Sunil Mahto, also of JMM, called up the cardinal Thursday and expressed their unhappiness for being part of the book's release.

Toppo launched the book despite being advised against it by two Christian legislators, Stephen Marandi and Bandhu Tirkey. He said, "First, I am a tribal and then a cardinal." 

 
Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo

"The Mahtos and Kurmis are enemies of the tribals. These two castes are trying to get tribal status just to enjoy the benefits of reservations," the book says.

Even some tribals are unhappy with the cardinal's move.

"Toppo does not need to champion the cause of tribals. He talks about tribal rights while missionaries are making their best effort to convert tribals into Christianity," asked Chandramohan Oraon, a tribal.

"Toppo's remark is like crocodile's tears. Why aren't those who have been converted brought back to tribal faith by the cardinal?"

But the cardinal told reporters: "I have released many books in the past. Just releasing a book does not mean that I endorse the view of the book."

Controversies are not new to the cardinal. He had earlier passed remarks on lack of development in the state and had openly opposed a proposed anti-conversion law.