The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Christmas minus carnival after church attack

Dec. 26: The stage was set for the carnival, but there were neither the masses nor the mood.

Forty-five minutes of looting that shook Maliapota village in Nadia’s Tehatta on Tuesday night has washed out all the fervour of the festive season in the area. More than 36 hours after the incident, the residents are yet to shake off the trauma, let alone come to terms with the fact that most of them had lost all their savings, which were in the church’s safe custody.

The celebrations have been called off. The candles that were to be lit on Christmas were seen strewn around the church. The villagers congregated today in the prayer hall only to express pain and pledge not to celebrate.

“We observed Christmas by fasting. Even our children refused to eat. We spent the day beside the priests and sisters,” said Namita Gomes, whose gold bangles (which her husband had given on the day of their marriage) were in the booty of the midnight marauders.

The pandal erected in front of the church was empty. The villagers stood on the ground, staring at the magnificent edifice of the Gothic-style structure with blank faces, still stunned.

“This is the first time since the church came up that we are not celebrating this day. We keep waiting for the day. My grandson is crying ever since the horrifying incident,” said Khokon Gomes, a 75-year-old man who converted when the church came up in the early fifties.

“These are the days we look forward to every year. The entire village used to erupt in festivity. We would decorate a stage in the middle of the pandal. We did everything this year,” said Fernando Mandal.

“We have cancelled all our programmes. We had plans to celebrate till the new year. But nothing will happen in the church but for the daily rituals,” said Mary Lobo, one of the nuns, who was transferred here from a Delhi church about a year ago.

“We have told the children enlisted for musical performances or dances not to turn up. This is time to be sorry,” said David Biswas, an organiser.

But the Christian community of the village was not the only one to have been hit. The fast-food kiosks and stalls set up along the road linking the church and the Krishnagar-Karimpore Road lay abandoned today. “We come here every year to make money. I invested Rs 10,000 on a food stall this year. I borrowed the money from a local lender. Now I don’t know what to do,” said Kajole Chowdhury from adjacent Boro Andulia. Like him, at least 50 youths were seen sitting in front of the church, waiting for customers who will never turn up.

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