Tezpur, Sept. 3: Assam today woke up to the brutal murder of a church leader in Tezpur.
The body of the vicar general of the Tezpur diocese, Father Mathew Nellickal, was found this morning inside Bishop House near Chitralekha Udyan. The assailants, who are yet to be identified, killed him last night in the central Assam town.
The body of the 65-year-old priest, who had joined the diocese two months ago, was found inside a storeroom.
As he had neither attended the prayers at 6 am nor had his breakfast at 8, a search was launched by the inmates.
The door of his room was open.
Not finding him inside, his attendants launched a hunt and discovered the body in the storeroom at 11.45 am, according to Fr Paul Dahangiya of Tezpur Catholic Church. He said Fr Nellickal ' the administrator of Tezpur Catholic Diocese and former principal of Tezpur Don Bosco High School ' had retired for the night after having dinner around 9.30 pm. All calls made to him this morning went unanswered.
Sonitpur district additional superintendent of police (headquarters), R. Bhuyan, said preliminary investigations suggested that the priest, who hailed from Kerala, was killed by persons known to him.
The assailants may have escaped via the Brahmaputra, which flows along the northern side of Bishop House, he said. No one has been picked up so far.
Doctors who performed the post-mortem at Kanaklata Civil Hospital said 10 to 12 “cut marks” were found on the body.
The body of the vicar general was taken to Borgang, around 125 km from here, where it will be kept for a couple of days. Fr Cherian said whether he will be buried here or in Borgang or his home district of Kottayam would be decided by the Tezpur bishop, who is away in Rome on holiday. Fr Nellickal was in charge in the absence of the bishop.
Tension gripped Tezpur town as soon the news of the murder of the “man who had no enemy” spread. The town was already on edge following sporadic incidents of violence since the 12-hour bandh called by the Lok Jagran Manch on Thursday to protest the killing of an RSS leader of Nalbari by suspected Ulfa cadre.
The Christian community, which comprises 15 per cent of Tezpur’s population and three per cent of the state’s, reeled under shock.
A leader of the community urged the government, on behalf of the archbishop of Guwahati Thomas Menam Parampil who left for Borgang on receiving the news, to immediately arrest the culprits.
The government has directed the deputy inspector-general of police, northern Assam range, to conduct an inquiry and book the culprits. The deputy commissioner and superintendent of police of Sonitpur district, who are in New Delhi to attend a conference convened by the Prime Minister, have been asked to rush to Tezpur.