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regular-article-logo Friday, 19 July 2024

Odisha: Priests hurt in Sundergarh church loot, attackers leave with over Rs 10 lakh

The incident comes barely 48 hours after the first BJP government in the state was sworn in. However, the church and police maintained that it was a case of dacoity and had nothing to do with religion

Subhashish Mohanty Bhubaneswar Published 17.06.24, 06:12 AM
Cops investigate the church loot in Bhubaneswar on Saturday.

Cops investigate the church loot in Bhubaneswar on Saturday. Sourced by the Telegraph.

Two priests at a church in Sundergarh, Odisha, were seriously injured while trying to thwart a robbery that saw the attackers leave with over Rs 10 lakh.

The incident occurred around 2.30am on Saturday at the Jhorabahal parish. Father Nerial Bilung, the parish priest, and Father Alois Xalxo, the assistant priest,
have been admitted to the Rourkela General Hospital with grave injuries. Both are in their mid-50s.

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The incident comes barely 48 hours after the first BJP government in the state was sworn in. However, the church and police maintained that it was a case of dacoity and had nothing to do with religion.

Asked if there was any communal angle to the attack, deputy superintendent of police Nirmal Kumar Mahapatra said: “There is no communal angle. It’s a case of dacoity. We’ll soon crack the case.”

Some of the money that was looted had been collected from the students of two schools located on the church premises. The church had its own funds too.

According to reports, about 15 goons armed with lathis and weapons barged into the presbytery (priests’ residence), broke the iron grills and asked the priests to hand over the keys of the almirahs. The intruders assaulted the priests with hockey sticks and iron rods.

Before leaving, they threw the priests’ mobile phones in the commode so they could not contact anyone. An FIR has been lodged with the police.

The Catholic Diocese of Rourkela, in a release, said: “The miscreants broke upon the grills and the door of the presbytery and entered the residence of Jhorabahal parish at 2.30am on Saturday. The priests did not get any chance to escape or inform anybody. First, the miscreants snatched the mobile phones of the priests and took them away.”

The release added: “The miscreants attacked the priests brutally with iron rods, crowbars, hockey sticks and other lethal weapons and dragged them to the rooms, handcuffing them and tying up their mouths with clothes and demanding whatever money they had. Though the priests showed them all the money, they continued to beat and thrash them, threatening to kill them, putting the knives at the throats of the priests.”

It said that the intruders had a currency detector. They allegedly searched the place, opening boxes, bags and almirahs. They stole all the money from the priests’ residence. They even took away all the bills and vouchers of the parish, schools and hostels, which were kept for audit.

The octapad (musical instrument) was also one of the items that were stolen. They ransacked the house for nearly an hour. “I fell unconscious, bleeding profusely. The miscreants were all wearing facemasks, hand gloves and heavy shoes and spoke in Bihari sadri,” said Father Bilung.

“Father Alois managed to untie his hands and helped Father Nerial. They could not come out of the room at night since they were afraid and remained in the room till morning. About 4.30am, they informed other people on campus,” said the release issued by the Catholic Diocese of Rourkela.

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