10/02/2023, 17.16
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School in Madhya Pradesh attacked by extremists organises an interfaith tribute to Gandhi

by Nirmala Carvalho

A school in the Diocese of Sagar run by nuns was targeted simply because a picture of Ganesh went missing from a notice board. The religious sisters responded today by bringing together teachers and friends, mostly Hindus, to mark the birth of the country’s founding father, champion of non-violence.

Sagar (AsiaNews) – Hindu extremists have targeted yet another Catholic school in Madhya Pradesh, claiming that the Hindu deity Ganesh was insulted because a picture went missing. The nuns who run the educational establishment responded urging people to rediscover Gandhi and his message of peace, this on the birthday of the founder of the Indian nation.

Located in Deori, Diocese of Sagar, Mary's Convent School is run by the Sisters of the Congregation of Jesus (CJ). Following a well-established practice, a mob egged on by Hindu nationalists broke into the school demanding it be closed.

They accuse the school of disrespecting the Hindu deity Ganesh and demand police investigate its principal, Sister Sarita Joseph. Only after police said they would carry out an inquiry did the crowd disperse.

The school in question is open to students from every religion and respects everyone. The facts of the case are trivial.

“On 22 September, grade 9 children decorated the notice board,” reads a statement by the Diocese of Sagar. “They put a picture of Lord Ganesh in the notice board. Next day when the students came to the school, they noticed the picture had gone and complained to the principal about it.”

It was only then that “the principal found out that the picture had been put in the notice board. But she was unable to find out who had removed it.”

Soon enough, “Some fundamentalist group took up the story and demanded the school be shut down. They also put up some posters on the walls and in the market against the school.”

Reacting to this, “Some students complained on social media saying that all these incidents are fabricated and sullying the good name of our school."

The Diocese of Sagar is where Fr Anil Joseph, a principal at another school, committed suicide after Madhya Pradesh police registered a complaint against him for sharing a post about violence in Manipur in a WhatsApp group.

In order to reduce tensions, Mary's Convent School proposed an interfaith meeting for today, a national holiday marking the birth of Mahatma Gandhi.

"Our teachers and staff celebrated the anniversary of the birth of the father of the nation, praying for ahimsa (non-violence), peace, harmony, truth and honesty, which are the fundamental principles that the Mahatma wanted to transmit,” Sister Sarita Joseph explained.

"This unfortunate incident has strengthened our resolve to serve society, through our educational apostolate. This is our mission: to give dignity to students through education, to prioritise the [positive] value system, and to work for nation building."

“In our school, through our educational apostolate, we serve the majority community who make up 85 per cent of our students,” the principal added. “We will strive to serve them selflessly, without discrimination of caste and belief."

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