Matters India Reporter
New Delhi: A day after police foiled the attempt of a right wing Hindu group to perform aarti of Bharat mata in the premises of a Catholic post graduate college in Sagar diocese in Madhya Pradesh state, a fresh ultimatum has been issued to do it again in the college and a school on Jan 16.
The fresh threat from the Hindu group has become a major cause of worry for the Church leadership over the life and security of the Catholics and their institutions in the diocese.
The 17-year-old St Mary’s P.G. College in Vidisha town in Sagar diocese was reduced to a battle ground on January 4 when the right wing Hindu activists clashed with the police force deployed to guard it.
More than 200 police personnel were deployed around the college following threat from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to perform aarti of Bharat mata in the precinct of the Catholic college even after the management and the district administration denied permission.
Some students, however, succeeded in breaching the security cordon and entered one of the class rooms and tried to perform aarti, only to be detained. This further enraged their supports outside the college who shouted slogans and marched towards the college, however, police stopped them from entering the college premises.
The administration, however, succumbed to their pressure and allowed them to offer aarti of Bharat Mata outside the college premises and ended the logjam in the evening.
This however, did not go down well with the members of Sanatan Sangh, another Hindu outfit that was supporting the ABVP. Now the Sangh has announced that it will perform aarti in the college premises on Jan 16 and urged all its members from across the state to be part of it.
Besides this, a four member Hindu activists visited Nirmala Convent Senior Secondary School at Sironj also in the diocese on Jan 5 and issued an ultimatum that they will perform aarti of Bharat Mata in the school premises as well on Jan 16.
Confirming the fresh threat to the Catholic institutions, director of the college Father Shaju Devassy told Matters India, “Hindu activists have threatened to perform aarti in the college and the school on Jan 16”.
Justifying the stand of the ABVP its national working committee member, Ankit Garg said, “the college management denied permission to perform aarti, which was absolutely not correct”.
Father Devassy termed the action of the ABVP as illegal. There is no law or guideline from the government or the University that allows such a religious activity in the premises of the college, therefore, permission was denied.
The priest further added, “we only upheld the law of the land”. Nearly 2000 students are studying in the college among them more than 95 per cent are from non-Christian background.
In November Church leaders had to seek protection for the community members and their institutions from the government after the right wing Hindu groups hit the roads waving burning torches demanding action against Christians for alleged religious conversion.
In September a 20-year-old Catholic mission in Mohanpur village of Guna district, also in the diocese, was “sealed” over a land title dispute and shifted the children studying in the hostel to other government hostels are a few examples of persecution of Christians in the diocese.
“We have been persecuted for serving the poor and the downtrodden”, says Bishop Anthony Chirayath of Sagar.
“Come what may we will not succumb to such pressures” he says asserting “we will continue to do our mission.”