Father Alexander of the Sankarakhol church is alive, but traumatised.
This is for the second time in his life that he has been targeted by anti-Christian mobs. More than anything else, the ferocity of the mob hatred disturbs him.
Before the attackers entered the church premises on August 25, Father Alaxander and others had fled to take refuge in the nearby forest. The church and the seva sadan were completely ransacked, burnt and looted.
Such was the hatred that the mob did not even spare two of his pet dogs. Father Alexander had three dogs, kept in their enclosures in the backyard. When he returned, he found two of them lying dead, their heads smashed. One dog managed to escape, and it now cringes in fear whenever it sees strangers.
Recalling the horror, Father Alexander told the Hindustan Times, “We could only hear the shouting and see the fire and smoke from the jungle. Even my two dogs were killed by the mob. I feel sorry for the animals.”
There were, according to him, about 500 attackers. They came in two lorries. They used the cooking gas cylinders in the
kitchen to burn down the church property.
The first time Father Alexander faced such a mob was in December 2007. That time, the mob, besides damaging religious statues, had not touched his other possessions. But this time, everything was turned to cinder.
Gajanan Diggal, a Christian who stays close to the Sankarakhol church, told HT: “I hide in the forests in the night with my three daughters and two sons. We visit our ruined house only during the day.”
None of the neighbours have stepped forward to help them.
Gajanan’s son Dipak, 17, who goes to a local college, said: “I have five close friends in the college. None of them have come to help me. No teacher has come to help us also.” Gajanan’s wife Putu said, “I had kept three gold chains for my daughters’ marriages. They took away everything.”
Elias Nayak, another Christian villager of Sankarakhol, said, “Even the shopkeepers have stopped selling us rations. How will we live here?”
The violence in Kandhamal is far from over. At 2 am on Friday, several houses in Bapalamendi (B) village were torched.
Sukeswar Diggal, who had come to lodge an FIR at the Tikabali police station, said: “The attackers are from our own village. Some of them even stay in the same street as ours. We attend each other’s social functions. But everything has changed now.”