Arunachal Pradesh: two statues of Mary stolen (and later found)
by Nirmala Carvalho

The religious symbols were in two Marian grottos in the dioceses of Miao and Itangar. Spokesman for the Church of the North-East: "We hope that these are isolated incidents and not the work of people with partisan interests". For Sajan K George, the incidents are part of an electoral dispute between Christian and Hindu candidates.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Two statues of the Our Lady were stolen, and later found, in Arunachal Pradesh. The religious symbols were in two Marian grottos, located in the dioceses of Miao and Itangar.

The leaders of the local Church are trying to understand who could have carried out such desecration.

Speaking to AsiaNews Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), protests: "We condemn the desecration of the Marian grottos, which deeply wounds our religious sentiment. The vandalizing of the sacred place, especially in view of the imminent general elections, can be traced back to the dispute between the BJP candidate [Bharatiya Janata Party, Hindu nationalist party - ed] and the president of the Arunachal Christian Forum ".

The two statues were stolen yesterday morning and found again after a few hours. The first is located near the parish of Doimukh, in the diocese of Itanagar, and was found in the possession of a person with mental disabilities.

The second belongs to the parish of Tezu, in the diocese of Miao. Reported missing by Fr. Thomas Mani, was later found at the home of a boy. The young man declared that he had seen her thrown into a field, and had taken her home. Investigators do not know whether the theft was carried out by the adolescent, or why.

Father Felix Anthony, spokesman for the Catholic Church in northeastern India, told the local press: "It is a great relief that both statues have been found. We hope that these are isolated incidents and not the work of people with partisan interests ".

According to Sajan K George, the vandalizing of religious symbols is part of the electoral dispute between Christians and Hindus, in particular between the candidate of the BJP Minister of State, Kiren Rijiju, and the challenger Khyoda Apik, president of the Christian forum that presents itself with the National People's Party.

He explains that "the two are competing for the same seat at the Lok Sabha [lower house of the Indian Parliament, ed], so there is also a third candidate of the Congress, Nabam Tuki, former Chief Minister".

It all started, he continues, "at the beginning of the month, when the Arunachal Pradesh Christian Revival Church Council launched an appeal to support the Christian candidate in the elections, triggering a controversy and the complaint from the far-right organization. The Legal Rights Observatory (Lro) has filed a complaint with the Electoral Commission asking for legal action against the Arunachal Pradesh Christian Revival Church Council. According to the LRO, the appeal to voters violates the code of conduct ".