Police guard St. Mary’s College in India's Madhya Pradesh state following threats from a pro-Hindu students’ group. (Photo supplied)
Hundreds of right-wing Hindu students clashed with police in central India Jan. 4 after they tried to storm a Catholic-run college to conduct a Hindu religious rite, church sources said.
Police were forced to charge about 800 students from the group Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parisahd (ABVP) when they tried to gain access to St. Mary’s College in Vidisha, in Madhya Pradesh state to conduct the Aarati, a Hindu ritual prayer hailing Bharat Mata (Mother India).
“They did seek prior permission, but it was refused,” college director Father Shaju Devassy said.
Student leader Ankit Garg, told ucanews.com that all they wanted to do was to promote patriotism among students.
Father Devassy said the attempt to storm the college was not about prayer or patriotism, but was a symbolic attempt to impose Hindu dominance over minorities.It challenged the constitutional right of religious and ethnic minorities to own and manage institutions to help their communities, he added.
Madhya Pradesh is run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party and has witnessed many incidents targeting Christians, who form less than one percent of state’s 72 million people, Christian leaders say.
The state witnessed 21 violent attacks on Christians and hundreds of cases of harassment, threats and intimidation at the hands of Hindu groups from January to November 2017, according to data published by voluntary group Alliance Defending Freedom.
Critics accuse the ABVP, the student wing of the BJP, of supporting the idea of making India a Hindu nation.