BJP protests against statue of missionary who fought Birsa Munda in Jharkhand
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BJP protests against statue of missionary who fought Birsa Munda in Jharkhand

Jharkhand BJP’s ST (scheduled tribe) cell and Sarna tribals have protested against the statue, terming it an insult to tribal’s icon Birsa Munda, who had allegedly fought against him.

ranchi Updated: Feb 13, 2019 15:29 IST
Sanjoy Dey
Sanjoy Dey
Hindustan Times, Ranchi
jharkhand bjp,john baptist hoffman,birsa munda
The bust of Fr. Hoffmann at a Roman Catholic Church in Sarwada village in Khunti,Jharkhand , is at the centre of a controversy between the state BJP and christian missionaries. (HT Photo )

A bust of John Baptist Hoffmann, a German priest, at a Roman Catholic Church in Jharkhand’s Khunti district has turned out to be an issue of fresh contention between the state unit of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Christian missionaries.

The BJP’s ST (scheduled tribe) cell and Sarna tribals have protested against the statue, terming it an insult to tribal’s icon Birsa Munda, who had allegedly fought against him. The statue along with a stone plaque, highlighting Hoffmann’s contribution including his alleged work in formation of Chotanagpur Tenancy (CNT), Act, was installed in December at the Church in Sarwada village in Murhu block, around 55-km south of capital Ranchi, they said.

Born on June 21, 1857 at Wallendorf village in Germany, Hoffmann was closely associated with the work done in the Khunti-Sarwada area, which went into the formation of CNT Act of 1908, a landmark in tribal protective legislation, claimed the missionary officials.

Jharkhand president of BJP’s ST Cell, Ram Kumar Pahan, who is also a BJP legislator from Khijri assembly constituency in Ranchi district, said, “We have submitted a memorandum to the Khunti deputy commissioner seeking a probe and removal of the statue of Hoffmann, as it is an insult to martyr Birsa Munda and it hurts sentiment of his followers.”

Pahan said Hoffmann and the British had attacked the civilization and culture of tribals here, which was opposed by Birsa Munda and Sardar Gaya Singh.

“Munda’s army, which was being trained to fight against the British in Simbua hill, had started a movement against the British. Hoffman, too, had a close shave once when Munda attacked him with an arrow . Later, the British arrested and tortured Munda. Despite this, Hoffmann’s statue is installed instead of Birsa Munda. Isn’t it an insult to Jharkhand’s great freedom fighter,” he added.

Akhil Bharatiya Sarna Samaj (ABSS) recently staged a demonstration in Khunti in protest against the statue. “We have objection to the stone plaque in which credit of CNT Act was given to Father Hoffmann, which is not true. The whole Jharkhand knows that CNT Act is the cause of the struggle and martyrdom of our Lord Birsa Munda,” said ABSS secretary Nilu Pahan.

However, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) termed it a ploy to divide the society.

“There are people who will do everything to win elections by polarising people. This is a small group, which is trying to create fire and disturb the peace of Jharkhand. Our people are not foolish. They are wise and they understand who had done what for whom,” said CBCI general secretary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas.

He said whatever the work Hoffmann as well as the Christian missionaries have done, even if this small group denies, stands before God, society and people of Jharkhand.

“We should ignore this small group because their intention is to divide and break the society and make people go among each other. Honouring someone’s service cannot be an insult to other’s contribution. We respect and appreciate the service of Birsa Munda. This is why, we celebrated 143rd birth anniversary of Birsa Munda at national conference centre of CBCI in Delhi,” he added.

First Published: Feb 13, 2019 15:29 IST