RANCHI: Members of the Sarna faith have decided to forcefully remove the statue depicting a ‘tribal’ Virgin Mary which was unveiled in May this year at Singpur village in Jharkhand’s Ranchi district unless it’s attire is changed.
Talks between church representatives and the Sarna faith have broken down and the Sarna elders have set August 24 as the deadline for their demand to be met.
The statue shows a dark-complexioned Mary in a white saree with a red border, her hair in a bun and bangles around her wrists. She is carrying the infant Jesus on a sling, just as tribal woman do.
Bandhan Tigga, dharmguru of Sarna society, said, “We have invited all the people of the Sarna religion from across the country to join us for a massive protest at Singpur on August 25. We are expecting lakhs of people, particularly from Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, will turn up to join our protest.”
The Sarna society is made up of 32 tribes — including Oraon, Munda, Ho, Santhal and Kharia — that worship Nature, especially trees.
“We have been organizing meetings at various places to inform the people about how the church is trying to confuse our people into believing that Mary was a tribal. I will be organizing another meeting on August 9 at Santhal Pargana about the same. A hundred years from now, people here would start believing that Mother Mary was actually our tribal goddess. It’s an attempt to convert Sarna tribals to Christianity. Mother Mary was a foreigner and showing her as a tribal woman is definitely not correct,” he said.
A meeting between the representatives of church and members of Sarna society was organized on July 22 in which the church rejected the demand of Sarna society. Tigga said, “We got only one reply: The church is not trying to convert any tribal and they would not remove the statue. We have no other option left but to remove the statue ourselves.”
TOI tried to contact Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, archbishop of Chhotanagpur, but he was not available for comment.