Catholic School Seeks Protection From Rightwing Group; Moves High Court

Following the controversy that evoked when a convent school in Madhya Pradesh barred the entry of students of a rightwing group, who attempted to enforce the reciting of Bharat Mata Aarti, the school has moved the high court seeking protection.

St Mary's PG College in Vidisha in a town in Ratlam district said Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which is affiliated to the ruling BJP, was trying to whip up communal tension.

Theodore Mascarenhas, Secretary-General of Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) said the institutions run by the Christians were being increasingly targeted by the rightwing group.

He said the ABVP contacted its members on WhatsApp groups and decided to demonstrate a 'voluntary' bandh in the town on Jan. 15 and forcibly entering the College premises and reciting the aarti.

Every effort to initiate dialogue with the students' group went in vain, he added.

The group rebelled and created "hungama" outside the school campus on Jan. 4. A few managed to enter the premises and chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai.

Following the ruckus, Fr Maria Stephen, the public relations officer for the Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh spoke to the media. He said, "The activists were demanding that they perform a Hindu ritual inside the premises."

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, expressed his grief. He said, "We are emotionally harassed. The students of the institution are feeling insecure due to these violent procedures."