On Monday, December 6, a mob of Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) members, two notoriously militant right-wing Hindu groups, attacked St. Joseph’s School in Ganj Basoda, India. The incident happened around 12:10 at noon when more than 300 protesters started gathering outside the school’s compound.
The attack happened while the school was administering exams for their grade 12 students.
St. Joseph’s School is a Catholic school located in Ganj Basoda in Madhya Pradesh and was established in 2008. The Malabar Missionary Brothers, a Roman Catholic religious congregation, runs the school’s administration.
Brother Anthony Tynumkal, the school’s principal, condemned the police’s inaction and seemingly lackadaisical treatment of the protesters-turned-mob. Tynumkal said some protesters were armed with iron rods, while others carried stones. They also chanted “Jai Shri Ram” (Glory to Lord Rama) while damaging school property.
A video posted on Youtube by Indian Media Book showed protesters throwing stones at the glass facade of the school’s building. Another protester can be seen in the video taking down school posters.
Tynumkal said they requested police protection but was dismissed with the assurance that “the mob would only shout a few slogans and disperse peacefully.” “But the police failed to show up; they only came after the goons had already left,” Tynumkal added.
Father Maria Stephen, Public Relations Officer of the Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh, calls the attack a conspiracy. They are targeting the Christian community to “discredit their charitable services including in the field of education,” Stephen added.
Bharat Bhushan, a police officer for the Gan Bashda police subdivision, dismissed Tynumkal’s allegations. He insisted that “it was meant to be a peaceful protest.”. “A few miscreants used the opportunity and hurled stones at the glass cover on the school building,” Bhushan explained.
He also added that the police gave the school’s administrators appropriate protection. Bhushan also claimed that they had provided prompt action. “Police has already taken four members of the Bajrang Dal into custody,” he added.
Neelesh Aggarwal, a VHP leader and one of the protest leaders, accuses the school of converting Hindu girls to Christianity on October 31 this year. Aggarwal claimed that the chairman of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights wrote a letter to the Vidisha collector complaining about the school’s alleged conversion practices.
However, according to Vatican News, the protests and subsequent attacks were triggered by a video posted by the Youtube channel “Ayudh.” The video showed pictures of a First Communion and Confirmation ceremony officiated by a bishop at the St. Joseph’s parish church. Hindutvas use the images of eight Catholic children receiving their first communion to justify their claim that the school is converting Hindu children.
Tynumkal refuted Aggarwal’s claim saying the video circulated on Youtube is “falsely implying that students of the school were being converted.” “None of the students participating in the event even study in the school,” he added.