The controversial statue of Mother Mary at a Nagri church on Sunday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
A statue of a dusky Mother Mary, clad in a white red-bordered sari and holding baby Jesus, installed at a Roman Catholic Church at a Nagri village some 25km from Ranchi, snowballed into a sensitive issue on Sunday morning, three months after it was unveiled by Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo on May 26.
Terming it religious ulgulan (revolution), some 15,000 Sarna tribal groups assembled at Singhpur village, 25km from city limits, protesting against the statue for its “misleading tribal look”.
On August 24, Ranchi district administration announced the enforcement of Section 144, IPC, on Sunday from 4am to 10pm. Barricades put up at a 25m radius from the church sealed all approach lanes.
Tribal protesters, including women dressed in white saris with red borders, started a 6km march from Dravid Ashram on the other end of the Dhurwa dam to reach Singhpur. Amid heavy security bandobast, including two riot control vehicles, the protesters assembled some 200m from the church to voice their objection to the statue.
Tribal women usually wear the white-and-red sari on festive occasions. They also carry their children on one side in a sling.
Tribal religious leader Bandhan Tigga pointed out this resemblance with the Mother Mary statue. “Mariyam is dark-complexioned and wearing a red-and-white sari. She is holding a baby Jesus in the tribal style. This is a conspiracy to convert innocent tribals into Christianity,” he alleged.
“We don’t interfere with anyone’s religion. Why would anyone misinterpret, misinform and mislead ours,” septuagenarian Kusum Tirkey, clad in white sari with a red border, said.
Around 3pm, protesters made a move towards the church, but were stopped by security.
“We don’t have problem with peaceful assembly. Our job is to ensure zero violence,” said a DSP level officer present on the spot.
The rally dispersed after 6pm. Nagri BDO Rohit Singh confirmed late in the evening that “no untoward incident had occurred”.
“It is a sensitive issue. Directions were issued from the top to act with caution. Protesters were agitated, but security forces managed to pacify them,” said the Nagri BDO.
“We don’t want to take the law in our hand. We’ve assembled to show our unity and pass few resolutions and a future course of action. We are trying to meet the chief minister and governor with our memo tomorrow (Monday). On December 25, we will hold a massive global tribal rally at Morabadi,” Tigga said.