Assam: Senior Christian Priest Accused Of Conversions, Land Grabbing, Abetting Suicide And More, Arrested

by Jaideep Mazumdar - May 27, 2022 02:42 PM +05:30 IST
Assam: Senior Christian Priest Accused Of Conversions, Land Grabbing, Abetting Suicide And More, ArrestedChristian Priest Steven Mavely
Snapshot
  • The immediate trigger for action against Mavely was the suicide of businessman, George Bordoloi.

Father Steven Mavely is not new to controversies. And he doesn’t have many admirers either, even amongst his fellow Catholics.

Mavely, who is the Vice-Chancellor of Don Bosco University in Sonapur near Guwahati, was arrested earlier this week for abetting the suicide of an entrepreneur George Bordoloi.

That triggered a flood of accusations, especially of land grabbing and conversions, against Mavely.

The Assam government has now launched a high-level probe into the land grabbing allegations against the senior Salesian priest. A three-member panel headed by state additional chief secretary Paban Barthakur and comprising revenue commissioner G.D.Tripathy and Kamrup Metro deputy commissioner Pallav Gopal Jha has been constituted to probe the land grabbing allegations.

According to local residents of Sonapur, the Don Bosco university under Mavely has allegedly grabbed more than 800 bighas (about 265 acres) of land, mostly falling under the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary. Mavely has allegedly constructed many facilities in this encroached land.

One portion of the encroached land was part of an elephant corridor and Mavely constructed some buildings, thus blocking the movement of elephants. This has resulted in herds of elephants attacking nearby villages and destroying crops.

The state forest department had recently conducted a survey by deploying drones. The images and videos taken by the drones revealed that the Don Bosco University had extended its boundary much beyond what was allotted to it.

The drone survey also revealed illegal cutting of hills within the campus. Permissions and licences are required to cut even a portion of a hillock in Assam. Mavely allegedly did not bother to take any such permission.

What’s more, the survey revealed the existence of a dam that had created a waterbody measuring 384 square meters. This dam was blocking the natural water channel from the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary and the Don Bosco University authorities have been accused of diverting water from the reservoir created illegally by erecting the dam.

The forest department lodged an FIR with the Sonapur police against the university authorities on May 7 for encroachment and construction of permanent structures in an eco-sensitive zone. The probe panel constituted by the state government has been asked to suggest ways to take back the land encroached upon by the varsity and to mitigate the damage caused by construction of permanent structures by the university.

Mavely was the principal of St. Anthony’s School in Shillong in the early to mid 1980s. And many of those who were students of the school during those years don’t have happy memories of Mavely. In fact, he was not liked by most and unlike some of his predecessors and successors, was not a widely-respected principal.

Some old students of the school told Swarajya that Mavely was whimsical and vengeful. He had allegedly taken very strong disciplinary measures against many students, including rustication from school, for even minor offences.

Mavely was also not popular amongst the Catholic community in Shillong. He was reportedly imperious, high-handed and unlike other priests, never mingled much with the local Catholics.

But Mavely knew how to impress his seniors in the (Salesians of Don Bosco, or SDB) order. Also, he is a good and efficient administrator. And that’s why his rise in the SDB hierarchy has been impressive.

But Mavely has also been accused of luring people to convert to Christianity. According to some local Hindu organisations, Mavely has been enticing poor people with financial and material aid, and with promises of free education in Christian institutions as well as jobs in the Don Bosco University.

The Assam government, it is learnt, is likely to constitute another panel to probe into the allegations of conversion against Mavely.

The immediate trigger for action against Mavely was the suicide of George Bordoloi who pioneered the dhaba business in Assam. Bordoloi is credited to be the first to set up dhabas along the highways in Assam and also the first resort in Sonapur.

Mavely accused Bordoloi and his son of encroaching on land belonging to the university and destroying rubber and coconut trees inside the campus. Mavely filed a police complaint against them.

Unable to withstand the harassment by Mavely, George committed suicide earlier this week. In his suicide note, he named Mavely as being responsible for his death.

Mavely got bail Thursday (26 May). But his woes may have just started.

Also Read: Why Anthony de Mello Is Important For Indian Christianity

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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