Autobiography: Journey of a Missionary Priest//.
Arrest and Jail.
Fr. George Pallivathukal
The Kekhare Episode
Arrest and Jail.
Fr. George Pallivathukal
The Kekhare Episode
Fr. George Pallivathukal
In the year 1963 the bus service between Dindori and Bichhia via Junwani resumed on the 31st October evening. In the first Bus a Tehsildar cum second class Magistrate from Dindori, Mr.Kekhare a Maharashtra Brahmin came along with his staff and camped in a temporary rest house belonging to the Public Works Department in Geheori village. The rest house was very close to our mission school. Approximatly 80 % of the villagers were chistians. The Tehsildar was sent to this village to make enquiries about some embezzelement case against the Sarpanch of the village.
The Sarpanch Shri. Jhujhr Singh bribed the revenue officer cum Magistrate and turned him against the Christians. The officer collected the entire village in the rest house and started threatening the Christians in front of the rest of the villagers. He asked them to give up the foreign religion they were following and become Hindus. Tribels were not Hindus. They have their own reigious belief. The Tehsildar asked the Christians of the village to clean the courtyard of the mission school and asked the christian ladies to collect cow dung because he said that he was going to conduct Ramayan in the Mission School premises and re-convert the christians to Hinduism by sprinkling cow dung water over them and then set fire to the school. If any christian refused to be re-converted to Hinduism, his land would be confiscated and he and his family would be chased away from the village.
He told the villagers not to allow Christians to graze their cattle in the village or draw water from the village well. He ordered that nobody would help the Christians with their farm work. The officer had the support of the Panchayat president and several influential villagers.
|Dindori district map|
In the afternoon of the 1st of November I was having a short nap after lunch. Suddenly two teachers of Gheori Mission School where the above mentioned incedent was taking place woke me up and narrated all that was going on in the village. Our people were all frightened. I woke up Fr. Terrence and repeated the story to him. We decided not to disturb Fr.Paymans. He being a foreigner we wanted to keep him out of this trouble. I told Terrence that I was going to Gheori and be with the people as they were in trouble. He also agreed to come along with me and both of us got on to his motorbike and went to the village.
With our coming our catholics were relieved and encouraged. We went straight into our school and saw our own people cleaning up the ground of the school. Quite a lot of cow dung was collected. We told the people to stop whatever they were doing for the evening Ramayan. After listening to the people about what had happend to them during the morning hours, both Fr.Terrence and I proceeded to the place where the Tehsildar was having his meeting. Three revenue inspectors and five patwarees had come along with him and at least 300 people were gathered in the courtyard of the public works department rest house.
The two of us walked into the place where the revenue officer was seated and asked the person whether he was the said officer. He said ,Yes'. He was drunk. Fr.Terrence asked him whether it was true that he was going to have Ramayan in our school premises and going to re -convert our Christians into Hindu religion and then set fire to our school. He said ,Yes' and threatened to wipe away all christians from Gheori, Junwani and all the surrounding villages. Fr.Terrence asked him whether he had any Government order with him to interfere with our religion. He said, 'I am the Government and picked up his slipper to beat Fr.Terrence. I was standing on the Varanda of the Rest House, just behind Fr.Terrence.
As the drunken officer came out from behind the table where he was seated, with his slipper in his hand to beat Fr.Terrence, he snatched the slipper from the Tehsildar's hand and threw it out side. Then the officer came forward with his fist to hit Terrence on his face. Terrence picked up an old shoe of a villager lying close by and thrashed him thoroughly. I was behind Terrence telling him not to retaliate and to be calm. But he in his anger did not hear anything and hammered the officer. The officer after getting the beating withdrew to his former seat and the entire fight was over in three minutes. What was surprising was that there were many revenue officers and more than three hundred people present there. But nobody moved from their seats. People said, 'This is a fight between two elephants, we should not get involved in it otherwise we will be crushed in between them.'.
After the fight we sent the people away to their houses. Terrence and myself went back to Junwani and narrated the entire story to Fr.Paymans. He did not konw anything until we came back from the site in Gheori. We told him not to get involved in the case as we were prepared to own up everything and fight out the case. We prepared the first Information report (FIR) and sent it to the police station at Mawai. Junwani comes under Mawai police station at a distance of about 15 kilometers. Police refused to file our report. The Tehsildar also sent a report to the police station against us. The police filed only that report.
We knew that this was going to be a big sensational case. Fr.Paymans told Fr. Terrence to go immediately to Dindori and to Fr. Antony Thundiyil who was the Priest-in- Charge of Dullopur just six Km. away from Dindori. Dindori was a Tehsil as well as a sub-divisional headquarter and Junwani was under the jurisdiction of Dindori Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) and Tehsil. Fr.Antony Thundiyil took Fr. Terrence to Dr. Gupta the chief Medical officer (CMO) of Dindori goverment hospital and had him examined. Dr.Gupta was a friend of all of us.
The following day Mr. Kekhre also went to the same doctor for medical examination. Dr. Gupta was a witness in our case. Fr.Antony sent a telegram to Prof. Ratnaswamy a member of parliament from Chennai and the president of the Catholic Union of India.The parliament was in session at that time. Fr. Terrence was advised by Fr. Antony and Dr.Gupta to go to Mandla and report the matter to the collector. Fr. Terrence along with Dr.Hensen of Katra hospital, a Dutch Doctor who was friendly with the collector met him and apprised him of what had happend in Gheori. Collector told Terrence to remain in Mandla and not to go out anywhere because the police were on the lookout for him.
To the police camp.
On the 1st of November, the day of the incident we had our usual monthly gathering of the catechists and school teachers and the following day was the 'All souls day'. Mass, blessing of the graveyard etc. went off as usual. During the day we heard that the police had come to gheori and arrested two school teachers, Halku Singh and Brijlal and the local catechist, Dev Singh. In the evening of the 2nd of November I got the information that the police had gone to the village and beaten up some of our catholics including women. After dinner I told Fr. Paymans that I could not rest here at home when our teachers are under police custody and the innocent people were getting beaten up.
I got ready to go to the police. Fr. Paymans sent two school teachers to accompany me to Gheori. When I reached the police camp to my utter surprise the Head Constable Gautam, who was dealing with the case got up from the chair in which he was sitting, shook hands with me and offered me the only chair that was available on the spot and he sat on a 'Katia'( village bed). The police Inspector with whom I had the encounter at Dumertola had not come to investigate the case. The teachers were sitting on the ground. I asked the Head Constable why he arrested the teachers and the catechist who were not involved in the case. The police wanted to create sensation. I told him to release them or else I said I would sit with them until they were released. The police officer told me that there was arrest warrent for me too. They arrested me and handcuffed me. That handcuff remained on my left hand Until I was put in jail after two days.
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