Indian police protect convent, school following mob attacks.
Nuns injured and property damaged after student commits suicide over exam stress.
A destroyed statue of St. Theresa in the compound of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary convent
in Tamil Nadu after it was attacked by a mob on March 26. (Photo supplied)
Police are protecting a Catholic convent and a school two weeks after mobs attacked and injured several people, including four nuns, in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state.
Indian bishops on April 6 appealed to political leaders in New Delhi and Tamil Nadu "to deal sternly" with criminals who attacked the convent of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and its Little Flower Higher Secondary School in Chinnasalem town on March 25-26.
“All the injured nuns are back from hospital now but police continue to guard the school and convent,” the congregation’s provincial superior, Sister Devaseer Mary, told ucanews.com on April 7.
Mobs attacked the school and convent after a grade 10 student committed suicide in the school hostel on the afternoon of March 25, hours after she had taken her mathematics exam after expressing fears of failing it.
Local police officer N. Ramanathan told ucanews.com that the violence began after the school management refused to entertain a demand for 1 million rupees (US$14,250) in compensation.
Sister Mary said the school management refused to pay any compensation because the school had not committed any mistake. But those who demanded compensation on behalf of parents of the deceased student “left angrily saying they knew how they could get this amount.”
A bigger attack followed on March 26. About 200 people armed with sharp weapons, iron rods and wooden batons entered the compound. They attacked the convent, its chapel, school offices and staff in what appeared to be an organized criminal plan. They beat up nuns and school staff, destroyed furniture, windows, computers and shelves in the school office, and desecrated the chapel.
School management suspect the involvement of some pro-Hindu groups in organizing the attack, but refused to name any.
However, Ramanathan denied links with any Hindu groups and said the attackers were family and friends of the deceased girl. Police have identified those who organized the attack and six have been arrested and remanded. An investigation is underway and there could be more arrests, the officer said.
The principal’s office at Little Flower Higher Secondary School was attacked on March 26 after a student committed suicide. (Photo supplied)
The nuns estimate a loss of about 10 million rupees (US$1.4 million) from the attacks. “We are documenting the loss in a systematic way. We want the authorities to recover our loss from the criminals,” Sister Mary said.
The nun said the school has paid 50,000 rupees for the funeral expenses of the student on “humanitarian grounds.”
Ramanathan said police estimated the loss to be worth 200,000 to 400,000 rupees only.
A preliminary inquiry has revealed the girl hanged herself because of exam-related stress, he said.
In an April 6 statement, Catholic bishops said they were “appalled and worried by the violence unleashed against the school staff and the sisters and we condemn it unequivocally.”
“What saddens us is that the school was attacked twice within 24 hours as this reflects the terrible face of mobocracy that we have been condemning time and again,” said the statement.
Church groups have been complaining about increased attacks on Christians and their institutions since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in New Delhi five years ago. The BJP supports the idea of establishing a Hindu-only nation.
“The special targeting of the sisters, of the religious places in the campus and the sacrilegious attack on the crucifixes of the sisters, with attempts to strangulate the sisters with the chain holding the cross, reveals the darkest side of human beings,” the bishops said.
Sister Mary said nuns plan to hold a meeting with parents next week.
“There was involvement of a political party, and we are still living in fear. Police have provided some security for now, but we need it to continue until the situation becomes normal,” she said.