02/04/2009, 00.00
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Hindu fundamentalists vandalise Catholic school in Bophal

Violence is triggered by trumpeted up charges against the school principal.
Jabalpur (AsiaNews/UCAN) – A group of young Hindu radicals attacked a Catholic school on Monday in Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh, destroying classrooms and equipment. The school principal, a Catholic priest, was arrested for insulting India’s national anthem.

This attack was triggered by an incident that occurred on 26 January, Republic Day, which led a group of teachers at St. Thomas Senior Secondary School to accuse the principal, Fr Thomas Malancheruvil, of stopping them and their students from singing the national anthem. Under Indian law such a crime can be punished with three years in jail.

The accused principal has rejected the charges, saying all he did was to rebuke the teacher responsible for the school’s National Day programme for being late.

Father Malancheruvil told the teacher that would be suspended for a three days but withdrew the suspension the same day when the teacher apologised.

Later however the same teacher, a colleague and a group of students spread rumours that the principal had prevented some students from singing the anthem.

This was used as a pretext by a group of 30 activists from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who attacked the school destroying computers, furniture and windowpanes

Called by the principal police moved in, arrested the young activists and Father Thomas himself. Five AVBP intruders were hurt in the incident.

The clergyman and 15 attackers of the Catholic school were later released on bail.

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