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Nationalists Threatens to Trespass Catholic College to Offer Hindu Worship

Wednesday, January 10, 2018, 12:17 (IST)

A Hindu-nationalist student association broke into a Catholic college in Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, and threatened the institution to allow them to perform a Hindu religious ritual at the facility. When the college refused to entertain the members of the by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the group rebelled and created "hungama" outside the college campus.

"The ABVP youth wing trespassed St. Mary's Post Graduate College - which is a private, unaided institution - on December 30 and they threatened that they would perform Bharat Mata Aarti forcefully on January 4, 2018," said Fr Maria Stephen, the public relations officer for the Catholic Church in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

"The activists were demanding that they perform a Hindu ritual inside the premises," he told Crux.

Aarti, a Hindu religious ritual to a deity, involves burning of a special candle with chanting and praises.

The director of the college, Fr Shaju Devassy, called the police as the members of the Hindu group began arguing with school administrators after they were refused permission to perform the ritual.

They even threatened to force their way into the school to perform the ritual.

"The ABVP members are provoking the people of Vidisha against this institution through social media and other means due to which the reputation of this institution is deformed. Moreover, we are emotionally harassed. The students of the institution are feeling insecure due to these violent procedures," said Devassy.

Bishop Anthony Chirayath of the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Sagar, which oversees Catholic institutions in that region, expressed his anxiety over the threats by "right wing forces" to conduct Hindu worship services in Catholic institutions of learning.

"We do not even conduct Mass or any Christian prayers in our College and we will not allow any puja [Hindu ritual] to take place," said Chirayath.

"Significantly, our educational institution provides quality education to around two thousand students, the majority of whom belong to the dominant community," he added.

The ABVP is affiliated with the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is also affiliated with the ruling the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"Our Educational Apostolate is open to all, without discrimination. Many of our priests of the Sagar Diocese have gone to Vidisha to be in prayerful and physical solidarity with Father Shaju Devassy," said Chirayath.

The local church submitted a memorandum to the regional administration asking for protection and security.