Christian schools asked to explain crosses, statutes

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Story By: mattersindia.com repoter

Jagdalpur: Principals of some top Christians schools in Chhattisgarh state have been asked to furnish details about crosses and other religious articles displayed in their institutions.

“This is another case of sheer harassment,” Fr Mathew Kunnel, coordinator of Catholic schools in Jagdalpur diocese, told Matters India on Wednesday.

The Carmelite of Immaculate priest, who is also the principal of Nirmal Vidyalaya Higher Secondary School in Jagdalpur, said the District Education Officer (DEO) of Bastar has asked seven schools in and around the city to respond within seven days.

The DEO’s March 12 notices were prompted by two separate applications filed by two rightwing Hindu groups in Jagdalpur under the Right to Information Act.

One notice, based on the RTI application from the Bajrang Dal (party fo the strong and stout), wants Nirmal and three other schools to give the exact number of crosses, statues and holy pictures displayed in the schools and their locations.

The group wants the schools to specify the rules and regulations of the Chhattisgarh government that permitted them to put up those religious articles.

The February 18 application, signed by Sreenivas Rao, district coordinator of the Bajrang Dal, also sought to know the order that stipulates that students of Christian schools should address their principals as “father.”

These four schools also received another DEO notice, based on an application from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, world Hindu council), seeking the same information.

The query from VHP general sectary for Jagalpur Sashank Srivastav was also sent to three other schools situated outside the town.

The VHP application also sought information regarding the number of Hindu students in those schools.

The council also wants two schools –Deepti Convent School and Bishop Convent School – to present their certificate of recognition.

Father Kunnel says they would respond to DEO notices in due time.

Father James Arampulickal, judicial vicar of the diocese, says the notices are part of a well-planned strategy being implemented throughout India to harass Christians.

The priest said such harassment would not dissuade the Church from continuing its work to serve the poor.

“The Church has faced persecution from the beginning. Persecution has only helped the Church to grow” the elderly priest told Matters India.

In January, the DEO, at the behest of Hindu groups, had asked Christian schools not to let their teachers to address their principals as father.

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