New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Those who want to impose the worship of Hindu deities in India’s Catholic schools "are not nationalists, but ultranationalists, terrorists," said Mgr Theodore Mascarenhas, bishop of Ranchi.
The prelate, who is also the general secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), spoke to AsiaNews about an ongoing situation in Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, where members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) have gathered in front of St Mary's Post Graduate College demanding that they be allowed to hold an 'aarti', a Hindu ritual, inside the facility to honour Bharat Mata, 'Mother India'.
"Their action is anti-constitutional, anti-democratic and violates our personal freedom," the bishop said. Despite the intimidating attitude of the terrorists, he thanked “Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh, who intervened directly and sent about 400 police agents to re-establish order and protect us. Something very bad could have happened."
Standing in front of the college, “Some 900 terrorists have been threatening to enter in order to perform their worship,” Mgr Theodore Mascarenhas explained.
The extremists belong to the youth branch of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s ruling party. Last week they arrived at the Catholic school and began intimidating people, shouting "You will have problems if you do not let us in”. since then, the situation has raised fears among locals.
What is happening in Madhya Pradesh, a State that has recently been the scene of other anti-Christian acts of intimidation, "is a very sad thing, [something] very dangerous for India – above all because when the activists arrived they did not ask [for an aarti] but ordered” it.
“Our school caters to a minority,” explained the bishop, “and we have every right to run our own institutions. No one can force others to worship [deities]. We do not force [others] and we do not want to be forced. Now the situation is under control thanks to the firm action of Minister Singh. But we do not know what the future has in store."
With respect to India’s future, Mgr Mascarenhas signed a press release on behalf of the CBCI, in which he expresses hope "that 2018 may be a year of peace and harmony, of love and fraternity, of inclusive and integral development for all peoples.”
The note cites a recent attack against Dalits, formerly known as ‘untouchables’, in Pune (Maharashtra) that left one Dalit dead, followed yesterday by a rally of hundreds of thousand of Dalits protesting in the streets of Mumbai.
The CBCI statement slams “another Union Minister [who] had the audacity to claim that his party would soon change the Constitution (of India), which mentions the word ‘secular’."
In light of all this, of the latest incident in Vidisha and of the attacks on Christmas carollers in Satna, the CBCI states that "This type of terrorism is unacceptable. This false nationalism must stop. That mobs of these type are being emboldened as was earlier seen in Satna is worrying and disturbing."
Finally, the note says that “It is time for all of us to come together to preserve the traditional brotherhood, peace and harmony in our beloved country.”
“We appeal to leaders across the political spectrum to recognise that groups and individuals spreading poison and sowing hatred are increasing and are being emboldened.”
“History will not forgive this present generation if we lose that legacy earned through the sacrifices and blood of our freedom fighters”.