ധ്രുവദീപ്തി: Autobiography of Fr. George Pallivathukal-
Journey of a Missionary Priest //
An interview with the deputy Superintendent of Police and friendship with the Tehsildar//
Fr. George Pallivathukal
With in fifteen minutes we reached the rest house where the police officer was camping. He had completed recording statements of the Tehsildar, our three jail companions and the other witnesses before we reached the place. Fr. Terence went in first to give his statement to the police officer. Meanwhile the Tehsildar was seated on a mini cot outside the rest house compound. Since he was sitting there alone I walked to him. He got up and shook hands with me and both of us sat down on on the same cot and started talking in a friendly manner. This was a great surprise for the people arround.
In the course of our conversation the Tehsildar said " I donot know why I got into this fight, I was misguided by the Sarpanch (Panchayat President). It should not have happened" . During that one hour we became good friends. He invited me to his house at Dindori. I visited him at his residence a few times. Whenever I met him in the court he would make me sit with him on the dais and take me home for meals.
After Fr. Terrence completed his interview with the police officer it was my turn. I narrated to him all that had hppened truthfully. Terrence was still fuming with rage and annoyed with the Tehsildar and when he came out after giving his statement to the officer he went to the the Tehsildar and abused him. The police officer ordered Terrence to leave the place immediately. He threatened to arrest the priest if he did not listen.
Thanksgiving Mass and Reception.
In the evening we had a thanksgiving Mass. I was the celebrant of the Mass. Concelebration was not permitted in those days. I had not celebrated Mass from the day of my arrest. The church was packed to capacity and there were people outside the church sitting and participating in the Mass. Fr. Antony Thundiyil preached in inspiring sermon. He told the people that this incident was going to be the begining of a new widespread conversion movement in the area. Quoting Tertullian he said that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of christians". He told the people to be courageous as the fathers have shown their bravery and continue to support the mission.
After the mass there was a reception organized by our household workers. The entire crowed attended the reception. Our workers bought a huge fat goat, garlanded him and brought and presented him to me. many people broght many things according to their capacity. I was deeply moved and touched by an old lady living with her grand son Premdas in the sister's quarters when she brought the only hen she had and put the bird at my feet crying and saying "Swamiji, I have nothing else to give you, please accept this". I knew that bird was the only wealth that old women had. She was looked after by the sisters. She used to collect eggs from the hen, sell them to buy kerosene oil, salt,chilly, etc. for her domestic use. I returned the bird to her. But she would not take it back. She said that this is how she wanted to show her gratitude for what I had suffered for them. The gesture of hers brought tears to my eyes. I truelly experienced the love of my people. Today, even after a gap of fifty years, the people of Junwani remember me well.
The police harased us to the maximum during the investigation period. They called the five of us including Fr. Terrence every second week to Mandla to attend the court. In the rainy season we had to walk 40 kilometers crossing three rivers to reach the nearest poit from where we could catch a bus to Mandla.
Every time the case was postponed. The police came to Junwani on the 24 th December in the evening for police verification just when we were preparing for Christmas celebration. I refused to meet the police and told the Police Inspector to come another day. Then he begged me to give him five miniutes to complete the formalities and I obliged. I do not know what kind of police verification he did and what sort of report he submitted to the court.
The police took full six months for the investigation and when the case was filed in the court the three teachers were left out only two of us priests Fr. Terrence, and myself were made the accused. I was the first accused. We had avery good lawyer Mr. D.P. Patak who fought our case with personel interest. The case lasted for two and a half years. Mr. Kekhre , the Tehsildar was the first prosecution witness. In his evidence in the court he had admittted that Fr. George not beaten him whereas in his FIR to the police he had mentioned that both Fr. Terrence and George had beaten him. The Tehsildar made six contradictory statements in his evidents which went against him. The case was judjed in our favour. About three fourths of the judgement was a narration of the misdeeds of the Tehsildar. The judge wrote that his provocation caused the fight and all that had happened that day in Gheori. Soon after the judgement departmental enquiry started against the Tehsildar soon he was dismissed from Govt.service. The above insident gave self confidence and courage to the tribel christians of the district. The Tehsildar episode was in fact a blessing in disguise. The lord brought out good lasting results for the church in Mandala district from the humiliation and suffering I had to undergo.
Diocesan Headquarters and the case.
After the first hearing in the court in Mandla I went to the Bishop's house and presented to the curia the bills for the expenses I had incurred on account of this case. Mgr. Joseph Thaliath refused to refund the money and told me that if I had enterd into a case of this sort unnecessarily it was my own fault and the diocese was not interested in it. I reminded Mgr. Joseh Thaliath that he was no body in the diocese; a title of a Mgr. does not give him any canonical powers. I told him that Fr. Van Oostrahaut was the administrator of the diocese in the absense of the Bishop and he has to make the decisions regarding matters conected with the diocese. He took my remark as an insult and he never forgave me for that. To avoid any conflict Fr. Paymans took all the bills from me and made the payment. He told me that he would take care of all the expences of the case. //-