Principal rejects allegation of disrespecting Hindu god, says ‘we offer education to all equally’
Activists of a pro-Hindu organization hold a protest against Christian missionaries in Allahabad, India in October 2013. A Catholic school in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh was stormed by hardline Hindu activists alleging disrespect to a Hindu god on Sept. 26. (Photo: AFP/ UCAN files)
Hardline Hindu activists stormed a Christian school in central India, accusing it of disrespecting a Hindu god and demanding a police probe against its nun-principal.
The move "seems to be part of a well-orchestrated conspiracy to target our school,” said Sister Sarita Joseph, principal of the St Mary’s Convent School at Deori in Madhya Pradesh state's Sagar district.
A mob gathered at the school gate on Sept. 26 to protest the alleged removal of a sketch of Hindu god Ganesh from the notice board.
The school staff sought police help as the protesters continued sloganeering. They demanded action against the principal and the withdrawal of government recognition for the school.
The school is managed by the nuns of the Congregation of Jesus (CJ) in the Sagar diocese of the Eastern Rite Syro-Malabar Church.
The mob left the school campus only after the police assured them of a thorough probe.
“It is totally a false allegation,” Sister Joseph told UCA News on Sept. 28.
The nun said the police took statements from her and other staff members on the alleged removal of the Ganesh sketch.
When contacted, a police official who is part of the probe, refused to disclose any information.
“I will not be able to say anything now as the probe is not complete,” he explained.
Sister Joseph said the school celebrates festivals of all religions and does not discriminate against anyone based on religion, caste, or creed.
“We offer education to all our students equally,” she said.
Daniel John, a Catholic leader based in the state capital Bhopal told UCA News that the incident “is nothing but an attempt to tarnish the image of the school and also of the Christian community.”
The state will be going to polls by the end of this year to elect 230 lawmakers.
“Unlike in the past, this is a tough election for the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, which has ruled the state for 18 years,” John said.
The state has witnessed a series of similar incidents against Christian schools and other Catholic institutions including churches in the recent past.
Christian leaders say pro-Hindu groups register fake cases against Church leaders, including bishops, priests, nuns, pastors, and those working in Christian institutions, on charges of religious conversion.
Christian leaders suspect a larger strategy to create communal discord ahead of the state elections to unite Hindu voters in support of the ruling party.
Christians make up a mere 0.29 percent of the more than 72 million people in Madhya Pradesh.
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