Hindu nationalists in western Gujarat state want pictures of Hindu deities to be installed in the principal’s office, classrooms
A supporter of India's ruling Bhartiya Janta Party attends a rally addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of Gujarat's assembly election, in Ahmedabad on Dec. 2, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
A Catholic school in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in western India has sought police protection after a Hindu nationalist mob created a day-long ruckus, demanding to put up pictures of Hindu deities inside classrooms and at the principal’s office.
Father Teles Fernandes, secretary of the Gujarat Education Board of Catholic Institutions, in a letter on Feb. 20 asked Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel to provide protection to the St Mary’s High Secondary School in Amreli town and take action against the members of the mob.
“We request you to take necessary action against such unruly elements and grant us police protection so that no untoward incident occurs in our premises or to any member of our institution,” he said.
When contacted, Father Fernandes told UCA News on Feb.22 that "these kinds of demands are totally unacceptable as we are living in a democratic country."
A large number of youths, claiming to be members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and its youth wing, Bajrang Dal or Brigade of Hanuman, who are ideologically aligned with Modi’s pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), barged into the school on Feb. 20 demanding that pictures of Hindu goddess like Saraswati Bharat Mata, besides Hanuman, among others, be installed inside classrooms and at the office of the principal.
“They reached the school campus around 10 am and left at about 5 in the evening,” school principal Father Binu Kunnel told UCA News on Feb. 22.
They also falsely accused the school management of tearing a picture of the Hindu god, Hanuman.
“This seems to be part of a well-orchestrated strategy to target our school,” Father Kunnel said, adding that nothing of this sort had ever occurred in the 25 years that the school had been serving people in the town.
“We never had any trouble from anybody, including right-wing organizations,” the priest said.
The school management suspected a possible hand of another private school in the town to defame the Catholic school.
Christians, who make up 2.3 percent of India’s 1.4 billion population, are facing increased persecution from Hindu nationalist groups ever since the BJP led by Modi assumed power in 2014. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat for 13 years before becoming the prime minister of the country.
India’s Supreme Court is hearing a public interest litigation filed by Christian leaders and organizations seeking directions to the federal and state governments to end the rising persecution of Christians, their priests, and institutions.
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