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Indian police guard Christian schools following threats

Catholic educators in Madhya Pradesh seek protection after Hindu hardliners vow action over denial of access to campuses

Indian police guard Christian schools following threats

Police guard St. Joseph Convent School in Jhabua Diocese in Madhya Pradesh Jan. 15 after a pro-Hindu student group threatened to storm it. (Photo provided)

January 18, 2018

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Hundreds of policemen were deployed to guard two Catholic educational institutions in India's Madhya Pradesh state this week amid alleged threats from Hindu hardliners.

The move came as the Madhya Pradesh Catholic Diocesan Schools' Association sought protection from the state high court for all its educational institutions following threats against them by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student body of the ruling pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.

Church officials say the group is trying to whip up hostility against the Christian institutions for not allowing its members onto their campuses to perform Hindu rites and other activities.

Police were sent to guard St. Mary's College in Vidisha on Jan. 15 after the ABVP set a Jan. 16 deadline for college authorities to allow its members to conduct Hindu prayers inside the college grounds.

Police foiled a previous bid on Jan. 4.

"The government provided full security to the college," said college director Father Shaju Devassy.

Policemen were also sent to guard St. Joseph Convent School in Jhabua Diocese after ABVP activists threatened to storm it after accusing the school of disciplining several students for shouting patriotic slogans.

Hindu hardliners are accused of trying to establish a Hindu only state by using extreme nationalism as a major tactic.

Father Rockey Shah, the Jhabua Diocesan public relations officer, told ucanews.com the ABVP was "cooking up allegations" in an attempt to portray Christians as non-patriotic for political reasons.

Church officials say ABVP threats are not about prayer or patriotism but an overt attempt to take control of the schools in violation of a constitutional provision that allows minorities like Christians to own and manage educational institutions.

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