MUMBAI, India – a Catholic bishop in India is accusing a local government of trying to “harass Catholics” after it closed a student hostel for members of the country’s marginalized tribal community.
The administration of the Guna district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh closed the decades-old institution, citing a discrepancy over its title to the property, and amid accusations the school was trying to convert its residents to Christianity.
Father Siljo Kidangan told Matters India on September 19 that the district administration sealed the building and moved the students to a government boarding on September 12, “ignoring our pleas against such a move.”
The hostel was established in 1997 to help members of the tribal community, who often have no access to education.
“We have been offering hostel facilities for students from poor families who study in a nearby government school. Among them brilliant students were picked up and admitted to good schools for better education,” Kidangan said. “But now the administration, under mounting pressure from the right-wing Hindu groups, sealed the hostel and shifted the boys on the ground that our land record missed a signature from the district collector.”
The priest said the government took advantage of a clerical error in the property filing, and used it to confiscate the property, and that they are appealing the decision in court.
Madhya Pradesh has been ruled by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2003. The party has strong links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militant Hindu nationalist organization. In 2014, the BJP won the national poll, and is currently the ruling party in India.
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