New Delhi: In yet another incident of alleged religious intolerance by the Church in northeast India, a temple, including its sanctum sanctorum, belonging to the tribal Niam Khasi religion was vandalised by Church elders on May 27.

According to the complaint made by the Niam Khasi leadership, allegedly a group of people led by nine Church elders attacked the temple while the Niam Khasi people were “performing annual religious ceremonies” at the village of Kongthong under the Sohra Civil sub-division.

Tui Khongsit, the leader of the Niam Khasi religion in the East Khasi Hills district, also alleged in his police complaint that Church elders, leading a crowd, also “vandalised and desecrated the sanctum which is known as Niang Pyrhal”, apart from “stopping us from performing the religious ceremonies as per the indigenous beliefs of the Niam Khasi, which is otherwise a right guaranteed by the Constitution.”

The Niam Khasi leader also alleged that to his surprise, the “entire incident took place in the presence of the police and the magistrate who remained a mute spectator”.

The complainant said that some of the attackers were also armed with sharp weapons, such as knives and “punctured the drum and other items used in religious ceremonies”.

Meanwhile, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed rights body Legal Rights Observatory (LRO) has taken up the matter. “If the administration and the state government don’t take action in this regard, we shall take the accused officials and the Church to court. We want immediate arrest of the accused, otherwise we shall approach Union Home Minister Amit Shah for intervention,” LRO chief Vinay Joshi told MyNation.

Not the first attack on indigenous religion

In 2017 the same Niam Khasi people had won a major legal battle against the Church when their traditional practice and cremation rights were upheld by the Meghalaya high court.

The flashpoint between the Niam Khasi followers and the Church came when the latter denied the burial of a deceased leader of the indigenous faith in the Mylliem village in East Khasi Hills.

The LRO had earlier also taken up cudgels on behalf of the community. The organisation had brought to light the fact that school children had been involved by the Church in protests against the Niam Khasi. The LRO had moved the NCPCR which had taken action in the matter.