Twenty-five people from Dalit families, including women, who were part of a carol team of St Paul’s Anglican Church at Pathamuttam, in Kerala’s Kottayam district, have taken refuge at the church for the last ten days fearing attack from men associated with the DYFI, the youth wing of ruling CPI(M) in the state.
A group of men belonging to DYFI, allegedly in an inebriated state, had attacked the carol team on December 23, and molested women in the carol team, according to the victims. The same night, church secretary Robin Johnson said, the gang vandalised the church and left several people injured. Seven DYFI workers were arrested, and later released on bail.
DYFI’s Kottayam district president K R Ajai admitted that youths from the outfit were involved in the attack. “They had gone to the church to question the carol members after the scuffle, but the issue was over then (after the second instance of face-off). These families are now camping at the church to make political gains,’’ he claimed.
Church official Johnson, however, said that after the initial attack on the carol team, the group was camping at the church when the youths regrouped and reached the church at night. “They threw stones at women and children, leaving many of them injured. The gang vandalised the church, destroyed food prepared for the faithful and left only after the carol team raised alarm by chiming the bell,’’ Johnson said.
According to Johnson, the victims are daily labourers, and since the incident none has gone for work. “They fear being attacked again. The assailants roam around the church premises and issue threats,” he alleged.
Kottayam’s Superintendent of Police Hari Sanker said considering the gravity of the case, the probe has been handed over to a Special Crime Branch team. The SP said: “We have initiated steps to provide them security. A molestation case has been registered. Those named by the victims were arrested. As per the bail condition, the arrested accused should not enter the village.”
Congress’s state unit working president Kodikunnil Suresh, who visited the families at the church, blamed laxity on part of the police. He said the police arrested only seven people but more DYFI workers were involved. On Tuesday, the state human rights commission registered a suo motu case and sought a report from the police.