Militants Vandalize Catholic School in India

‘Members of Hindu Extremist Group ‘Bajrang Dal’

Catholic School India
© Fides

A crowd of about 500 extremist militants devastated and committed vandalism in a Catholic school in the state of Madhya Pradesh, central India.

According to Fides sources, members of the Hindu extremist group “Bajrang Dal” forcibly entered the St Joseph school in Ganj Basoda, in the district of Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh. They threw stones at the school building, damaging windows, and furnishings, while the exams of the 12th class were in progress, terrifying the students. The school authorities, teachers and pupils, present in the building at the time of the attack, managed to escape the violence.

The violence occurred due to the alleged religious conversion of eight Hindu students. The accusation has been totally denied by the school authorities. Friar Antony Pynumkal, headmaster of the school, run by the Malabar Missionary Brothers (MMB) in the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Sagar, tells Fides that the alleged conversion is a “false pretext and unfounded”. The Headmaster reports that he learned of the imminent organization of the raid the day before the events, through the local media. Friar Pynumkal then promptly informed the police, who, however, did not set up security measures to prevent violence. The militants accuse Christians of having held a baptismal rite for school children. This is what Fr. Sabu Puthenpurackal, the priest in charge of communications in the diocese of Sagar reported: “The nearby church of St. Joseph in Ganj Basoda had organized the First Communion of some Catholic children of the parish on October 31. A group photo of the children together with Bishop James Athikalam and parish priest Fr. Jose Lee Cyrakkove was published in the diocesan monthly newsletter ‘Sagar Voice’ on November 5.

This photo was misinterpreted as the conversion of Hindu children by people who run the Youtube channel ‘Aayudh’, which instigated the militant groups Hindus to take action against Christians”. In recent days, even the ecclesial authorities had turned to the police to protect Christian institutions in Ganj Basoda. However, they did not manage to limit the violence. The police said investigations for vandalism are in progress. Founded in 2009, the school welcomes students in the city of Ganj Basoda located about 105 km northwest of Bhopal, the state capital. It has 1,500 students from all religions and cultures and less than 1% of them are Christians.