Obscure Hindu group owns responsibility for Indian priest’s murder (Lead)July 2nd, 2008 - 7:28 pm ICT by IANS
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 2 (IANS) An obscure local group called Nepal Defence Army, which wants Hinduism restored as the state religion, has claimed responsibility for killing an Indian priest. Johnson Moyalan was murdered Monday inside the Don Bosco mission in Nepal’s Sirsia town, about 15 km from the India-Nepal border. A group of four to five people forced their way inside the mission early morning, locked up the assistant priest and shot Moylan dead.
The Don Bosco group of Roman Catholic priests said he had been shot twice, in the stomach and chest. And the attackers left pamphlets at the spot that said the Nepal Defence Army was responsible for the killing. The Hindu group claims it is training suicide squads to restore Hinduism as the state religion.
The last rites of 60-year-old Moyalan will be held in the Bandel Church of India’s West Bengal state, the order said.
Moyalan’s murder inside the mission created ripples with the Vatican too taking note of the slaying of its priest.
Hailing from Ollur village of Kerala in India, Moyalan had entered the service of the Roman Catholic church when he was only 19. After serving in Bangalore and Hyderabad cities in India, he came to Nepal in 1996.
Four years later, his order opened a mission in Sirsia to work for the uplift of Santhals and other underprivileged members of the Hindu community regarded as low-castes.
It opened a primary school of which the priest served as principal. According to reports, the school had been receiving extortion calls from underground armed groups active in the turbulent Terai plains.
This is the first killing of a Christian priest in Nepal.
Before the pro-democracy movement in 1990, the church had to contend with deep distrust by the government when preaching and conversions were a punishable offence.
Though the former Hindu kingdom of Nepal has eased religious curbs since then, some of the churches in south Nepal came under Maoist attack during the communist insurgency for not meeting the insurgents’ demands for money.
Last year, Nepal’s parliament declared the country a secular state, a proclamation hailed by the religious minorities.
However, the security situation in south Nepal has begun to worsen after the April election, with armed groups becoming active again.