By Jose Kavi
New Delhi: The apex boy of the Catholic Church in India on December 16 expressed shock, pain and hurt at what it says was an “unprovoked violence” against a group of seminary carolers.
A group of 30 seminarians and two priests from St. Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna, Madhya Pradesh, was detained in a police station on December 14 night after Hindu radicals, suspected Bajrang Dal activists, accused them of indulging in conversion activities.
A statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) condemned the behavior of “goons” who “even went on to torch the vehicle of the priests.”
“What is even more shocking is that eight priests who later went to inquire about the detained priests and the seminarians were also taken into custody.,” bemoans the CBCI statement issued by secretary general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas.
The police released the Church team around 2 am on December 16, but asked the ten priests and three seminarians to report to the station at 7 am, according to information received from Satna bishop’s house.
Bishop Mascarenhas decried the police’s “shameful” action of allowing the situation outside their station to become “so hostile that even those who wanted to approach the detained persons could get no access to them.”
The bishops dismissed the conversion charge as “frivolous and laughable” and termed as “disgraceful” the violence by groups that claim to be nationalists after appropriating the mantle of protecting nationalism and religions.
“The complicity of the police who arrested the seminarians and stood by helplessly as the priests and seminarians were assaulted is disgusting and appalling. Such misuse of the police force and break down of law and order is not tolerable in a democracy and in a civilized society,” the CBCI statement asserts.
”We are absolutely sure that they do not speak in the name of our very broad minded and peace loving Hindu brethren,” it adds.
The bishops’ body also notes that the attack took place “just two days after Vice President Venkaiah Naidu heaped “effusive praise” upon the Catholic Church” a the Christmas celebrations CBCI organized.
“Christmas is the festival of love, joy and sharing. It is a time to renew our commitment to love and serve our families, communities and society; to be just and transparent in our dealings; to promote social and economic inclusion of all; to promote lasting peace between people of different religions and cultures and to promote sustainable development,” the vice president had said.
The bishops also note with dismay that the Satna incident occurred just a few days before Christmas.
Such incidents happening around the country worry all people, they add.
“Even worse, lynching, mob attacks and brutal killings of innocent victims with culprits often not being found or going unpunished for months are large blots on our democracy,” the CBCI statement says.
The bishops’ body urges people to “go beyond words and promises” as violence has become dangerous to attempts to build a new India.
“Riots and mayhem have left behind destitute orphans and widows. We are not angry; we hold no grudge. We are sad and pained that our beloved Country is getting a bad name through the acts of hoodlums who are taking law into their hands,” the bishops’ statement says.
It appeals to India’s political leadership to bring back the rule of law and order and to deal severely with miscreants that disparage efforts to bring peace and development in the country.
It regrets the “fringe elements” of yesteryears are now allowed to take center stage.