Students blamed for arson attack on church school in India

Archbishop believes Manipur attack was in retaliation for the suspension of six female students
Students blamed for arson attack on church school in India

Catholics look at a burned classroom at St. Joseph School in Chandel district of Manipur on April 26. A students’ organization is suspected to have orchestrated the attack on April 25 over disciplinary action taken against some students. (Photo supplied)

ucanews.com reporter, New Delhi
India
April 30, 2019
Catholics in India’s Manipur state have accused a students’ organization of burning down a school after being angered by disciplinary action taken against some students.

Seven classrooms, a records room and offices of St. Joseph School in the Sugnu area of Chandel district were destroyed by an arson attack on the night of April 25 after six students were suspended for indiscipline.

“We believe this was orchestrated in retaliation to the school management’s decision to suspend six female students of grade nine,” Archbishop Dominic Lumon of Imphal told ucanews.com.

The school functions under his Imphal Archdiocese that covers the entire state of Manipur.

Police investigating the case said they suspect the involvement of the powerful Kuki Student Organization (KSO), a forum of students of ethnic Kuki people, the dominant hilltribe in Manipur.

Two officials of the organization have been arrested, said Jayanta Singh, inspector-general of police in the state.

Police said the KSO had demanded the suspension be revoked but the school refused. It resulted in the student organization asking for the school to be closed down by April 25.

School authorities refused the demand, which angered the KSO and resulted in the attack, police said.

Several Catholic groups have condemned the arson attack on the 55-year-old school, which has about 1,400 students.

Father Jacob Chapao, director of the Manipur Catholic Youth Organisation, said the “barbaric act of vandalism on an educational institution was against the cause of humanity.”

Imphal Archdiocese is worried about the effect on students and plans to erect temporary classrooms, Archbishop Lumon told ucanews.com on April 28.

“We can reconstruct the building, but how will we retrieve student records collected over the years?” he asked.

The prelate said the issue began when a teacher disciplined a boy for chewing gum in class. The boy was given two beatings with a stick. A girl responded by saying “That’s too much.” The teacher turned to her and gave her eight beatings.

The next day her friends posted the incident on social media and used abusive words against the teacher, according to Archbishop Lumon.

The girl who posted the first message was suspended for six months while another five were each suspended for one month. Their parents were called to the school, he said.

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