Police probe death threat against Indian Cardinal

2015-06-11 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Indian Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, the archbishop of Ranchi, the state capital, received a threatening letter on June 8th, allegedly from the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), a splinter group of the Communist Party of India (CPI Maoist)

The letter contained a demand for 50 million rupees (about 691,844 euro or US$780,000) to be paid within 15 days. Claiming that the Church has financially prospered through evangelism, the letter states: "You have made money [moolah] spreading the religion, which is why you should give a cut to the organization.”

Further it gives the cardinal a death threat by stating, “The police do not have the capacity to arrest our men; If you do not pay, you will be killed.”

Expressing surprise about the threat, the cardinal said Maoists have normally been appreciative of the work of Church missionaries in India’s remote interior villages. He said there have also been no communal tensions in his area. "Why on earth they have taken this step, we are wondering," he said in an interview with ucanews.com.

The cardinal said he has recently met a person from PLFI who claimed that the organization was not behind sending the letter. The cardinal declined to identify him or her, says ucanews.

Either way, the cardinal said he did not feel threatened by the letter, which was waiting for him this week when he returned home from a trip to Germany. “Even if the threat is real, we won’t pay primarily because we don't have money,” he said. “If we don't have, how will we pay?”

Cardinal Toppo had immediately filed a complaint with the local police, who say they are taking the case seriously and are investigating the letter’s authenticity. Jaya Roy, the city’s police superintendent, told ucanews.com that the letter came via registered mail posted from Kuchhu village (Ormanjhi block) signed by Raj Kujur, the self-styled PLFI commander of the Bengali region of Jharkhand, and includes a phone number. “We are trying to ascertain whose number it is,” she said. The police are also investigating whether the letter is authentic.

In the meantime, police have beefed up the cardinal’s security detail. “We have given him a personal security guard, and five armed police personnel are deployed at the cardinal’s house,” Roy said.

A veteran social activist who has spent three decades working in local villages said the PLFI remains “strong in some pockets in the region” and has been responsible for several recent attacks and murders.

He said the threatening letter should not be seen as a Maoist attack on the Church, but more of a financial move from a group that routinely extorts money from businessmen, corporations and politicians.

"First, they are not real Maoists. Second, they don't see the Church. They are trying to take money from a source they think has money," said the social activist, who asked not to be identified to avoid being targeted by the PLFI or local police.

The PLFI, he said, is a breakaway faction of the Communist Party of India, but the activist said many people in the area know them as a group allegedly nurtured by police to counter perceived threats from real Maoists. But the PLFI in its current form has grown beyond police control, and now authorities are struggling to control them, the activist said.

The unfazed Cardinal responds to the death threats through AsiaNews, saying “The police are taking care of the situation, we continue to selflessly serve  through our intense and extensive apostolates- especially the poor and the marginalised, our Tribals and Dalits".

Card. Toppo, who is of tribal origin, told AsiaNews: "The letter in the Hindi language arrived when I was out of country, and we neither know the source or authenticity of the letter’.  There is an inherent contradiction, The church is often- baselessly – accused  of fraudulently  evangelizing through means of allurements – whilst this letter alleges, that we have enriched ourselves through spreading religion.’  Both are baseless, fabricated and false.  Conversion to Christianity is an act of Free Will, or free choice and is guaranteed by our Indian Constitution".

"The cardinal - said the police superintendent Jaya Roy - is an important leader of the Christian community. We have provided adequate security at his house, and we will do the same during his movements".

(AsiaNews, ucanews.com) 

(from Vatican Radio)