A college that hosted tribal students since 1997 closed. The police arrived with five trucks full of Hindu extremists, scaring the children. The college is accused of forced conversions. Sajan K George: "Nationalists are against Catholics because they want to continue to exploit dalit and tribal."
Mumbai (AsiaNews) - On behalf of the entire Indian Church, "I strongly condemn the closure of the Catholic college that for 20 years welcomed poor children and ask the authorities to reopen the hostel right away." This is the clear position of Msgr. Leo Cornelio, archbishop of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. His intervention comments on a painful episode for local Christians: the closure of the college located in the village of Mohanpur, inaugurated in 1997 for the reception of tribals. Guna district authorities closed it down and drove the children and director out. The bureaucratic justification is the lack of a signature on the property act, but the heaviest accusation is one of forced conversion of the college residents to Christianity. In fact, the archbishop denies, "the goal of the Hindu fundamentalists is to create divisions in society. We must fight all this. "
The story of the Catholic hostel came to the fore yesterday. Fr. Maria Stephen reports: "What worries us most and concerns us is the way the closure took place. Police arrived at night with five jeeps full of members of the Rashdriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Hindu paramilitary group, and Vhp [Vishva Hindu Parishad, Hindu nationalists, leader of Hindutva ideology-ndr]. This scared the children." According to the priest, "the behavior of officials dictates that they are not on the side of the poor but the rich. It is horrible to see [a service that provides] welfare and good education to poor children shut down."
Sajan K George, chairman of the Global Council of Indian Christians (Gcic), complains that "extremists continue to mount sectarian passions against the vulnerable Christian minority. They particularly affect Christian institutions, especially colleges in remote villages that are involved in educating and improving tribal and dalit conditions. " The leader reports that nutrition programs are hosted in the colleges that "want to increase the holistic development of marginalized and poor sectors of society. But extremists oppose them because they are in favor of the exploitation of tribal and dalit for their own interests. "
The president of Gcic recalls that the affair of the school is not the first case of intimidation against the Christians of Madhya Pradesh, accused of forced conversions. He quotes the two arrests in May, during which both children and their accompanying adults were arrested. The Christians were charged with having violated the state's anti-conversion law. In reality, they were only accompanying children to a summer camp after receiving parental authorization. The following June, the nationalists' intolerance fell on Sister Bina Joseph, arrested and charged with kidnapping minors and forced conversions. In fact, the religious of the Carmelite congregation of St. Theresa (Csst) was only traveling in the company of four tribal girls. These episodes demonstrate, concludes Sajan K George, that "constitutional guarantees of freedom for all citizens are violated and minorities targeted by vigilante groups".
Sister Bina Joseph and four girls remained in police custody for 12 hours. Released after interrogation. The denunciation of the young Hindu fundamentalists of Bajrang Dal and Matrushakti. Bishop of Bhopal: "The attitude of the police officers is to be condemned".
The college has been hosting the poor tribal students of the area for 20 years. The Church legally bought the property and the documents are in order. Bishop Anthony Chirayath: "False accusation of having converted 200 people". Archbishop Cornelio: "Nationalists want tribals to return to the Hindu religion. But they have not been converted. "
On November 19 some Pentecostals arrested in Madhya Pradesh; on November 15 an evangelical in Chhattisgarh. The leader of the Global Council of Indian Christians seeks protection for the celebrations of November 26, Solemnity of Christ the King.
The radicals belong to the group of extreme right-wing Hindu Vahini. They accuse Christians of wanting to convert the groom, of Hindu religion. The couple was forced to postpone the wedding and celebrate with a Vedic ritual. The state has a law against forced conversions that discriminates against minorities.
The incident concerns the St. Mary's Post Graduate College in Vidisha. Hindu radicals of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad threaten retaliation. Numerous episodes of intimidation against institutions and Catholics.