Clampdown after Catholic hospital, nuns attacked in India

Bishops condemn 'acts of violence, terror, intimidation and forceful trespass' as authority bans activity on disputed land
Clampdown after Catholic hospital, nuns attacked in India

Bishops led by Archbishop Leo Cornelio visit Pushpa Mission Hospital on March 15 after an attack by suspected Hindu activists on March 12. (Photo supplied)

Three days after suspected Hindu activists demolished the boundary wall of a Catholic hospital in central India, the local authority issued a prohibitory order to check tension and further activities in the disputed area.

The March 15 move in Ujjain town in Madhya Pradesh province came after a mob razed the wall of 44-year-old Pushpa Mission Hospital and blocked its emergency entrance, claiming the land in front of the hospital belongs to one of them.

"The administration suo moto issued a prohibitory order in the disputed area so that no activity can be carried out there until a further order," Neeraj Pandey, police additional superintendent, told ucanews.com on March 16.

The administration issued orders after noticing construction on the disputed land, he said.

Church officials have alleged police inaction on March 12 when about 60 people used bulldozers to demolish the wall and manhandled staff including nuns who attempted to resist the advancement. The attackers also damaged an electricity transformer, back-up power generators and water connections.

Pandey said the administration is working on restoring water and power connections to the hospital.

The hospital is running on temporary power and water connections taken from the neighboring building, Bishop Sebastian Vadakkel of Ujjain told ucanews.com.

The administration moved soon after a delegation of four bishops including Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the national bishops' conference, visited the area and demanded that state and federal governments act to ensure the rights and safety of Christians in Madhya Pradesh, which often reports anti-Christian violence.

"Neither the state of Madhya Pradesh nor the federal government can afford to allow mobs to take the law into their own hands," said a statement by Bishop Mascarenhas after he visited the hospital along with Bishop Vadakkel, Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal and Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal of Indore.

The dispute started in January after Gagan Singh, the personal assistant of a local parliamentarian, staked a claim over the land, which the hospital claims was given to it four decades ago for parking and maintaining its greenery.

The attack happened despite a pending court case about the dispute. Church leaders suspect the attackers have administrative support as the parliamentarian belongs to the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party that runs the state government.

"The use of political muscle and an arrogant display of violent might is nothing but terrorism and anti-nationalism. We condemn these acts of violence, terror, intimidation and forceful trespass as these actions pose a threat to the well-being and future of our beloved nation," the bishops' statement said.

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