April 13, 2009 Easter Greetings : Let us resurrect Champaran It is an inspiring coincidence that as an important section of my electorate celebrates Christ’s resurrection, I am finding crowds full of enthusiasm and support in my effort to resurrect Champaran. I extend warm greetings to all this Easter Monday. Yesterday, on my morning walk, I visited the St Mary’s Cathedral at the Christian Quarters in Bettiah. Hundreds of families had turned up for the Holy Mass. The local Diocese had decorated the Church premises beautifully. And it was so Champaran like. The mood was just like other festivals- Eid or Diwali. The tranquil and colourful canvas that captured the eye told just one story: of oneness, peace and progress. I felt happy to be there, to greet the young and the old. The affectionate handshake, the reassuring pat or the quiet smile in acknowledgement of my greetings also told just one story: How Champaran loves its festivals. All this told yet another story : of Champaran’s intrinsic secularism. I was not the only non-christian who had come to wish our christian brethren. There were scores of Hindus and muslims. Neither was I the only Lok Sabha candidate who had come calling with wishes on this holy day. I did spot the Congress nominee Sadhu Yadav entering the church. He looked religiously radiant with a red tika on his forehead. While a congregation came out after one Mass and others went in for the second Mass, I lighted candles in front of Mother Mary’s idol near the gate, stood near by and greeted people. Christianity came to Bettiah in the eighteenth century from Nepal. The Italian Capuchin priests from Leh led a small band of Newari converts from Nepal and found refuge in Bettiah Raj. A mission was established at Bettiah and the local Raja gave land grant of two hundred bighas at Dussaiya, popularly known as Padri-Dussaiya since then. Another mission came up at Chuhari in Chanpatia block, not far from my own village Barharwa. Missions came up at Chakhni near Bagaha and at Rampur near Mainatar. The christian mission has played an important part in Champaran’s progress, especially in the field of education. Young men and women who have passed out from mission schools of Champaran have made their mark in different fields. To name just two such educational institutions, Khrist Raja High School for boys and St Theresa’s High School for girls have carved a niche for themselves both within and outside Bihar. Many leaders of the church including Arch- Bishop Benedict Osta and the present Bishop of Bettiah Victor Henry Thakur have been born and educated here. Actor Manoj Bajpai, who is part of my unit in my under production film ‘RAJNEETI’, too has studied in mission schools in Bettiah. Social-cultural traditions of Bettiah christians too have much in common with other communities of Champaran. Even marriage rituals find commonality here. Champaran’s secular fabric gets much of its rich hue from its christian community. This is no election rhetoric but just a reiteration to preserve and enrich our secular bonding. That is why we must be careful and guard against any covert or overt attempt to disturb social peace. We need this peace to march forward. We need this peace to generate means to generate employment opportunities and avenues to create wealth at home. We need to maintain our secular fabric to weave dreams to life. – Prakash Jha.