10/06/2017, 14.03
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In Jharkhand, Hindu extremists accuse a Catholic headmaster of boycotting their shops

by Nirmala Carvalho

Dilip Ekka heads St Joseph’s School. Nationalists want to undermine India’s Catholic educational system. For Sajan K George, Christians have "been targeted by extremist groups” because they work for tribal development.

Ranchi (AsiaNews) – Some members of the extremist Hindu Mahasabha, an old right-wing nationalist party, and the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, have filed a complaint against the head of a Catholic school.

According to the plaintiffs, Dilip Ekka, headmaster of St Joseph's School in Latehar, Jharkhand, is boycotting local Hindu shops, preventing people from buying the products they sell. The Catholic man has rejected all the charges.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Michael Kerketta SJ, a Jesuit theologian and professor of systematic theology at Ranchi, said that nationalists are attacking the school headmaster in order to undermine India’s Catholic schools.

"These are all false allegations,” he said, “made for propaganda purpose. These people want to sow divisions. The school the headmaster heads provides quality education to everyone, regardless of caste and belief, and it especially open to tribal students."

Police are currently looking into the matter, but thus far, they have not seen anything that can be pinned on the headmaster.

"For now, there are just suppositions,” said Mahuadand Deputy Police Superintendent O P Tiwari. “The two communities have always lived in peace in this area. If necessary, we shall invite the parties to a meeting to clarify any misunderstanding."

Mahuadand District, where members of the two radical nationalist groups filed their complaint, has a large Christian population. According to the 2011 census data, Christians represent 44.69 per cent of the residents against 20.79 per cent for Hindus.

For Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), there is another relevant aspect, namely the great work by Catholic schools, and more generally by Christians, in favour of tribal groups. This may bother majority Hindus.

In recent weeks, "Jharkhand has been targeted by extremist groups, who want to undermine intercommunal harmony and divide Tribals by seizing their lands."

Ranchi Archbishop Telesphore Toppo has spoken out on behalf of local ethnic groups, leading some Hindu radicals to retaliate by handing out photos showing him burnt in effigy.

“Tribals have always been exploited and excluded by the Hindu majority, which now also wants to bring them back to their [Hindu] origins through the anti-conversion law, but Tribals have never been Hindus,” explained the GCIC president.

Catholic schools are an issue because "they are located in tribal areas and provide a good education. By contrast, tribal educational underdevelopment is very convenient for the Brahmin mind-set, which is to keep Tribals within the oppressive [hierarchical] structure."

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