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Clement Lakda’s battle against Christian evangelists: Ground report on how missionaries in Chhattisgarh converted tribals to grab their lands

Clement Lakda is 56 years old. He is in the middle of a legal battle against the Catholic institution in Jashpur for the last 30 years. His father passed away in 2000 while fighting the same case. In recent years, the court ruled in favour of Clement Lakda. But, instead of handing over his land back, the Catholic institution is involved in harassing his family.

If there can be any testimony of the tyranny Christian missionaries have caused to the lives of innocent tribals, none could be more honest and disturbing as that of Clement Lakda who says, “My father was cheated. Fooled. The day I understood this, my mind was detached from it (Christianity). I have vowed that will take back from them the Sarna which they (the Catholic institution) desecrated and will reembrace the religion of my forefathers. I’ll see how long I can fight.”

Clement Lakda is 56 years old. He is in the middle of a legal battle against the Catholic institution in Jashpur for the last 30 years. His father passed away in 2000 while fighting the same case. In recent years, the court ruled in favour of Clement Lakda. But, instead of handing over his land back, the Catholic institution is involved in harassing his family.

Clement Lakda, a father of two daughters, lives with his family in Duldula in Chhattisgarh’s Kunkuri assembly constituency. His wife Sushma Lakda is the Sarpanch of Duldula. Pictures on the walls of their house show that the family has converted to Christianity. But the documents lying on a table in the corner of the house showcase the pain that this family has suffered after the conversion.

About 10 acres of Clement’s land is occupied by the Catholic institution. There is a church and a school on this land. There are houses for the father and nun to live in. The people of the institution cultivate on the vacant lands. The land was lost by Clement Lakda’s father Bhade alias Vashil Oraon in exchange for becoming a Christian.

Clement Lakda told OpIndia that his father was converted in 1957-58. A priest had asked him to leave Sarna Puja and become a Christian. This was the time his father’s first wife died. According to Clement Lakda, the pastor had told his father, “You convert to Christianity. Let us make a church here. We will fix a cross in your Sarna. The Lord will bless you in your home. Your house will prosper. Ghosts will run away from the house.” Clement Lakda adds, “Father was scared since his wife’s death and he immediately believed what the missionary told him.”

This was followed by Bhade’s second marriage. Clement Lakda was born after this marriage. According to Clement Lakda, his father had not received any money in exchange for the land. He said, “The most painful fact is that they desecrated the holy Sarna. They razed it and fixed a cross there.”

According to Clement, his land was initially owned in the name of a local Father Theodor Lakda. After that, the Catholic Organization grabbed it in its name. This is a clear violation of Section 170(b) of the Land Revenue Act. We have told you in detail about this law in our previous report.

In 1992, the government of undivided Madhya Pradesh conducted a survey to remove the encroachment of scheduled tribe lands. The case of encroachment of Bhade’s land was also reported at the same time. Then the matter went to court. The Kunkuri SDM’s court ruled in favour of Bhade. The Catholic body was directed to return the vacant land and pay compensation in lieu of the land on which the construction had taken place. Against this order, the Catholic organization appealed in the civil court. But even there, the decision came in favour of the Lakda family. Copies of court orders are with OpIndia.

Clement Lakda said that he is fed up with the harassment by the Christian missionaries and wants to return to the faith of his forefathers. Image Source: OpIndia

Clement Lakda told OpIndia that after the court order when he tried to get possession of the land in his name, the Catholic body went to the additional district sessions court. Seeing itself on the weaker side, the Christian institution later withdrew the petition and started putting pressure on the Lakda family in different ways. Later, in January 2022, Clement Lakda went to the Tahsalidar court to get the land back. In response, the Catholic body again filed a suit in the same civil court which had already ruled in favour of Clement Lakda.

Apart from the legal battle, Clement Lakda claims that officials of the Catholic body and their associates are torturing his family. Development works of the Duldula panchayat are being hampered. “Tell your husband to withdraw the case”, these people ask Sushma Lakda. Referring to one such incident, Clement Lakda told OpIndia, “A meeting was convened at the church in February 2022. In this meeting, I was told that if I do not withdraw the case, I will be boycotted by the community. And that who will marry my daughters then?”

He added, “For a tribal, his land, however small or big, is everything. We are agricultural people. Families are raised by farming. What do we do with this Christianity if we don’t have land?” Clement Lakda said that people like the late Dilip Singh Judeo, Ganesh Ram Bhagat, national convenor of the All India Tribal Security Forum, and Hindutva organizations have helped him a lot in this fight. Even after being isolated in his community, he is able to fight this battle only with the help of these people.

It is not that Clement Lakda is the only one tortured by the Christian institution. There are many more Clements whose forefathers were first converted by temptation and later evicted from their land and all of them are now fighting Christian missionaries. But the biggest question is, when will these people, persecuted by Christian missionaries, get justice? When will they be able to return to their lands?

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