BRINGING INTO DISREPUTE? The murky affairs in Imphal’s Catholic School Canchipur are yet to be resolved

BRINGING INTO DISREPUTE? The murky affairs in Imphal’s Catholic School Canchipur are yet to be resolved

/ Guest Column / Tuesday, 03 March 2020 17:35

By- Yambem Laba

The Catholic School Canchipur, located in Imphal near the Manipur University campus, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Established in 1982, it has a student population exceeding 4000 today but even then, all isn’t well behind the high walls of the educational institution,
The first shocking incident happened when Father Mathew , the Principal, was shot dead inside the school campus on 29th April 1990. The Revolutionary People’s Front, the political wing of the proscribed People’s Liberation Army of Manipur, had written to  me that they had executed Father Mathew for his purported dealings in the narcotics (read heroin) business.
Then, on 2nd February 2001, another principal, father Tommy Manjalee was shot at but he survived the attempt on his life. Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack but it was suspected that he might have been following some non – canonical norms.
Last year cam the turn of then principal Father Soni Thomas. His was not for drug dealings but an alleged illicit affair with a lady staff member. A rumour was circulated alleging financial wrongdoing involving the principal and the Archbishop.
On 5 June 2019, Father Thomas tendered his resignation to the Archbishop relinquishing his post and everybody thought things would die a natural death as it was assumed that Father Thomas had taken moral responsibility for the alleged transgression. However, the Local Guardian Association of the Catholic School trooped to Bishop House and almost forcibly extracted the confession from the Archbishop, who then agreed to take him back.
In the meantime on 24 June 2019, Sanasam Basantkumar Meitei, computer teacher of the CSC, was summoned to Singjamei Police Station and charged with being the person who spread the rumour.
He was detained for the night in the lockup and the next morning, made to sign a confessional statement. He had to pay Rs. Three lakh to the father of the lady staff member in question.
By the second week of July, Father Thomas was reinstated, albeit unofficially, by the Local Guardians Association, led by one Naorem Jibit Meetei. Then by 22 July, he was formally reinstated as the principal of the CSC by the Archbishop.
On 18 August last year, the Kangleipak Kanba Lup, a vanguard organization of Manipur, held a press meet in Imphal and laid bare the nitty – gitty of the conversation between Father Thomas and the lady staff member. Also revealed in the press meet was the revelation that they had both the text of the conversation between Father Thomas and the lady staff member, and also an audio recording of Father Thomas alleging the Archbishop’s financial wrongdoing. There were no rejoinders of rebuttals to that effect from the Bishop House.
The Most Reverend Dominic Lumon, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Imphal, informed me on 4 September 2019 that Father Thomas was being removed and that it would happen in front of gathering of some 40 teachers of the CSC. The news was flashed in the local media the next day.
The lady staff member approached the Manipur Women’s Commission on 30 August alleging that she had been subjected to gross mental harassment while also naming Basantkumar Meitei and Ngamkheilakpa Luwang, general secretary of the Kangleipak Kanba Lup, as respondents.
The chairperson of the Manipur Women’s Commission, Meinam Binota ruled that “however as par investigation of the Commission, Sanasam Basantkumar is found not guilty, so the school authorities may resolve his Suspension Order at the earliest”.
She added that “this Commission also feels compelled to put on record tha the present issue has hampered the proper functioning of the school to a certain extent and this Commission recommends the authority concerned to end the issue sooner than later for the sake of the school and the students’ welfare”.
Thereafter Basantkumar Meitei called on the Archbishop, asking his intervention to resolve the inquiry against him. Dominic Lumon, however dodged the question stating that the Catholic Educational Society of which he was the head, is an autonomous body beyond his sphere of influence.
As things turned out, the worst nightmare of Basantkumar Meitei came true – he was terminated from service with effect from 22 November 2019. His two sons, who were students of the CSC, were also forced to seek enrolment elsewhere.
This case involving the CSC in Manipur has not been highlighted well enough. Although the Vatican’s Ambassador to India had been apprised of the entire episode, nothing concrete seems to be happening. Father Thomas has been replaced as principal by Father Stephen Touthang and the lady staff member in question has since expired due to cancer.
Now the question remains with Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, who has been reappointed president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India.
Will he look into this matter? Only time will tell.

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