By Robancy A Helen
Chinnasalem, April 1, 2019: A mob, allegedly instigated by Hindu right-wing groups, attacked a Catholic school in Tamil Nadu after one of its girl students committed suicide.
More than 200 people on March 26 came on a truck and rampaged Little Flower Higher Secondary School, Chinnasalem, some 260 km southwest of Chennai, capital of the southern Indian state, Father Arputharaj, an official of the Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore, told Matters India.
The girl, Poongulazhi, was a tenth grader in the school, which is managed by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, known as Blue Sisters, in the archdiocese.
The priest said Poongulazhi committed suicide at Kallakurichi, her village called near Chinnasalem, on March 25. Her parents informed the police immediately after her death.
There was no suicide note. However, the 15-year-old girl had reportedly told her school friends that she had not done well in the final school examinations and she feared scolding from her parents.
The following morning, the girl’s relatives entered the school along with activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, national volunteers’ corps), the umbrella body for Hindu nationalist groups, and attacked the nuns and the staff.
Women in the group tried to strangulate the nuns with their chain and tried to disrobe them pulling their saris.
The mob also destroyed computer sets and school furniture. Four nuns and two school staff were admitted in the local government hospital. They are out of danger, the school authorities said.
Although the school is close to the local police station, no action was taken to prevent the attack, Father Arputharaj alleged.
He said the nuns’ supporters hesitate to stage a protest in view of the upcoming general election.
Only one local Tamil newspaper reported the girl’s suicide, but not the attack on the school and the staff, the priest regretted.
On March 30, the nuns’ provincial Sister Asir held a press meet to explain the situation. She alleged the RSS had provoked the girl’s relatives to attack the school. She asked the police to speed up the case. If they would not do it, the Church will hold protests condemning the act, she warned.
Meanwhile, the archbishop has set up a committee of lawyers and priests to study the matter.
The girl’s relatives had demanded money. Since the girl’s family is poor, the nuns said they transferred 50,000 rupees to the parents’ account. But the mob demanded more and attacked the nuns and later staged a sit-in near the school.
The provincial said the school would transfer another 250,000 rupees to the parents’ account in due course of time.