A mob of some 200 Hindu radicals demolished a Catholic school in Tamil Nadu this past week and stripped some of the nuns who teach there, attempting to strangle them with their rosaries.
The mob, consisting of members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an ultra-nationalist Hindu paramilitary group, turned the school’s chapel upside down, beheading and toppling a statue of the Virgin Mary and savaging the altar with a pickaxe.
No part of the school building was spared, as the activists devastated classrooms, smashed desks and windows, and wreaked havoc on the auditorium. Four of the nuns and two other school staff members were hospitalized for injuries after the attack.
A recent report found that hate crimes and targeted violence against Christians had jumped by 57 percent in India during the first two months of 2019 as compared with the same period in 2018.
During January and February, 77 incidents of “hate and targeted violence against Christians” were documented in India as compared with the 49 cases recorded during the same period last year, according to the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).
According to Sister Mary Asir, the provincial superior of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who run the now-devastated Little Flower Higher Secondary School in Chinnasalem, “It is evident that the violence unleashed against the school and the destruction inflicted was premeditated and organized.”
“The criminals wanted to hit the nuns,” she said.
In a statement, Sr. Asir said that the institute was founded 74 years ago to educate children of poor families. Presently, 2,150 students are enrolled in the school, of whom 117 are very poor girls from neighboring villages who are housed as boarders at the school.
The event sparking the violence was the recent suicide of a 15-year-old girl named Poongulazhi, a student of the school’s 10th grade class, although some observers have suggested that the nationalists were just looking for an excuse to strike the Catholic school.
The damage suffered by the school amounts to some 130 thousand euros, according to estimates. Despite the fact that the school is located near the local police station, no police action has yet been taken.
The Council of Tamil Nadu bishops has condemned the incident and has appealed to the government to immediately launch an investigation, take action against the guilty, and protect the sisters and school.
“It is really painful and shocking that after carrying out murderous attacks on persons and causing deliberate destruction to the properties, the gangsters came along with the police to demand enhanced compensation which is not justifiable. It is a very cruel act which expresses their violent mindset,” said Sr. Asir.
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