Bangalore Archbishop Bernard Moras and two priests were attacked anddetained by a mob of alleged Hindu fundamentalists while on a visit toa parish church and school on the outskirts of the southern Indian city.
UCA Newsreports that a crowd of 1,000 people shouted anti-Christian slogans andsome of them assaulted Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore on theevening of 18 December, as the bishop visited a church and a school inJalahalli, a Bangalore suburb, that were attacked the previous night.
"Aswe arrived at the school gate, our car was attacked," Archbishop Moraswas quoted as saying on the website of the Catholic Bishops' Conferenceof India. "They tried to hit me but I escaped injury."
Thearchbishop was on a visit to two Claretian priests who were attacked byalleged Hindu fanatics the previous night. The attackers also damagedSt Thomas Church and St Claret School, which the Claretians manage.
The mob detained the archbishop and the priests for more than 20 minutes.
TheClaretians were locked inside and remained unaware of the prelate'spresence at their gate. Archbishop Moras had to call a high-rankingstate police officer to rescue him and the priests.
Fr Jacob Arackal, the Claretians' local superior, told UCA News the incidents were "all pre-planned" to discredit the Church.
Describingthe earlier incident, Fr Arackal said 100 people came at night, shoutedpro-Hindu slogans and threw stones at the church and school, in thesame campus.
The mob also broke the church's glass windows, anddamaged the electric lights and flower garden. It then moved to theschool and damaged its building and equipment until midnight, when thepolice arrived.
Fr Arackal said he phoned the police station, but the police came "to arrest the priests rather than the assaulters".
Theincidents followed a complaint of child abuse registered against schoolprincipal Fr Mathew Theruvanmoola, who had allegedly "misbehaved" withtwo girl students during a school study tour.
The policeregistered the case around 10 pm. Local television channels andnewspapers carried the news the next morning, Fr Arackal said.
Whenthey went to the police station to report the incident, the priestsdiscovered that a report had already been filed, against them. Theyimmediately informed the archbishop of Bangalore, Mgr Bernard Moras,who went to the scene of the incident yesterday morning.
Thenext day, the school declared a holiday to protest the attack but about1,000 people gathered at the school. According to Fr Arackal, the crowdcomprised mostly right-wing Hindu activists and members of KannadaSangha, a group that advocates use of the local Kannada language.
Fr Eppen, who was hospitalised after the attack, told UCA Newsthe issue has both sectarian and linguistic overtones. Recently, thestate government announced its decision to withdraw recognition of morethan 1,000 schools that do not use Kannada as the medium ofinstruction. "Of late the Kannada Sangha groups were targeting schoolsthat still use English as a medium," Fr Eppen explained.
FrGeorge Kannanthanam, a member of the Claretian provincial council,suspects the immediate provocation for the attacks was a march theschool organised recently to protest the government policy.
Attackson Church people and their institutions have increased since February,when a new coalition government came into power in the state. A majorpartner in the coalition is the Bharatitya Janata Party (BJP, Indianpeople's party), considered the political arm of right-wing Hindugroups.
Mob assaults archbishop and priests, vandalizes Church property (Indian Catholic, 19/12/06)
Bishop attacked in Bangalore as police look on (AsiaNews, 19/12/06)
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