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Indian Catholic priests face charges after Hindu mob attacks school

Police in southern Telangana state file criminal case for promoting enmity between religions against principal and manager
Members of hardline Hindu groups stage a sit-in on the premises of St. Mother Teresa English Medium School in Telangana on April 16.

Members of hardline Hindu groups stage a sit-in on the premises of St. Mother Teresa English Medium School in Telangana on April 16. (Photo: Supplied)

Published: April 19, 2024 11:57 AM GMT
Updated: April 19, 2024 12:05 PM GMT

Police in southern Indian Telangana state have filed criminal cases against two Catholic priests, days after a Hindu group attacked a school the missionaries managed.

Police filed criminal charges of promoting enmity between religions on Fathers Joby Dominic and Jaimon Joseph, principal and manager, respectively, of St. Mother Teresa English Medium School in Kannepally village on April 18.

The police move comes two days after a Hindu group vandalized the Catholic school and assaulted school manager Joseph. The attack followed a day after the priest questioned a few students for attending classes wearing religious costumes instead of the school's uniform dress.

The priests belong to the Kerala-based Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (MCBS), which runs the school in the state Mancherial district.

Police charged the priests with acting to provoke riots and intentionally insulting the region of a person. If convicted, the priests can be sentenced to three years in jail.

“We were summoned to the police station. Officials asked us to sign papers and allowed us to return with a rider to join the probe when required," the priest added while denying the charges.

A violent mob wearing saffron shirts and shawls forced their way into the school premises on April 16 and broke glass windows and flower pots while chanting “Jai Shri Ram” (hail lord Ram) and pelted stones on the statue of St. Mother Teresa at the main gates.

They ransacked the school and appeared in saffron shirts as the management questioned a few students attending classes wearing religious costumes instead of the school uniform.

They then staged a sit-in inside the school premises.

They slapped and threw punches at Joseph while others attacked him from behind.

Police arrested 12 persons in connection with the violent attack "but soon released them," said Joseph.

“It indicates that the police charged them with minor offenses.”

“We are consulting with our legal team to decide the future course of action," Joseph added.

The Telangana Federation of Church, an ecumenical body, condemned “this senseless violence.”

In an April 18 statement, it urged the state government, led by the secular Congress party, to “take appropriate action.”

“It was a well-planned attack,” said Father Aloysius Ephrem Raju Alex, deputy secretary of the regional Telugu Catholic Bishops’ Council, with jurisdiction over two Telugu-speaking southern states -- Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

“It was not a spontaneous act as was being made out. A majority of the mob was brought from faraway places,” Father Alex told UCA News on April 19.

“The person who led the mob is not yet arrested,” Alex said.

“It seemed to be a well-orchestrated conspiracy to target Christians,” the priest noted.

“We are also in touch with the ministers and other top officials,” he added.

Christians make up close to 2 percent of Telangana’s 35 million population, more than 80 percent of whom are Hindus.

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