Political groups protested inside the Jesuit run St Joseph’s PU College, Anekal campus in Karnataka, south west India, on 26 and 27 January because they had failed to hoist the national flag on Republic Day.
On 27 January, a mob of more than 100 members belonging to ABVP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Rashtra Sakthi Sene, Karnataka Rakshana Vedike and some elected Councillors of Anekal Municipality entered the College campus and demanded that the classes be suspended immediately.
When Fr Anil D’Mello, SJ along with the staff and parents of the college and with the help of Anekal Tahisildhar and Shive Gowda tried to diffuse the tense situation the police remain largely mute spectators.
The absence of senior police at the scene allowed the group to grow in number and continue agitation in the campus for nearly two hours. As the atmosphere grew tense the Tashildhar demanded the presence of Principal Fr Melwin Mendonca, SJ in the campus. When he entered the College campus he was surrounded by the mob.
The situation looked grim and the Principal was not allowed to make any statement. They demanded that the Principal be arrested and taken into Police custody. Fr Melwin and Fr Anil gave consent to the demand in order to defuse the situation.
Instead of driving the principal by car to the station, the police accompanied him on foot. A rowdy mob shouted abuse as he walked along. Though the Principal kept calm and was protected by the police, some students who had come to his defence, were beaten up. Some of the injured students were Dalits. Out of 378 students studying in the College 220 belong to scheduled caste and another 60 students belong to minority groups.
Fr Melwin reached the station at 12.30pm. During the day some of the group leaders entered the station demanding that he should not be seated on a chair. They threatened to shut down the town if he was not arrested. The police treated Fr Melwin with utmost dignity in the station. At 9pm he was released and told there was no case to answer. Before the Jesuits were released, the group leaders were called to the station and repremanded for their actions.
The ABVP has visited the College eight times this academic year and closed down the college twice. They want our students to become members of their association. The management rule says that no outside association can conduct enrollment of students inside the college campus.
The Jesuits and their works have faced stiff resistance for the past 15 years from the communal forces. In 2000 students who were on a camp in Anekal village were violently attacked. A little later a Jesuit Scholastic was stabbed on his way to a village. There are more and many such instances where Christians are persecuted in this part of the state.
The issue is not about flag hoisting. It is part of an anti-Christian agenda.
The future is tough and belongs only to the daring and committed Jesuits. Crisis management groups and quick response teams to help men and works in such situations will strengthen our apostolate. The journey has only begun and there is a long way to go.
Source: Conference of Religious of India
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