Raipur, November 26, 2014: Chhattisgarh, a central Indian state, seems to be the new laboratory for Hindu radicals to tame Christians.
The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP, world Hindu council) has objected to Santa Claus distributing chocolates to school children during Christmas.
The new objection comes a few days after the radical group forced Catholic schools in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh to use the Sanskrit term “acharaya” instead of “Father” to address their priest principals.
The Hindu council has also objected to several activities of the Church and raised questions about use of school buses for religious functions. The VHP and outfits backed by it have also said they want idols of Goddess Saraswati, the Hindu deity of learning, installed in missionary schools.
While the Catholic school authorities agreed to have the Goddess’s idols installed, they rejected VHP’s other demands saying these were an infringement on their freedom to manage their religious affairs guaranteed by the Constitution.
The row between Bastar missionaries and VHP was triggered by a speech by Bishop Joseph Kollamparambil of Jagdalpur at a school annual function recalling how Fr Kuriakose Elias Chavara, a visionary and social reformer, “was canonized and conferred sainthood by Pope Francis at Vatican on Sunday.”
He said Fr Chavara contributed to free education for all in Kerala in the 19th century. Earlier, on November 17, Bishop Joseph said the Kerala reformer had introduced the concept for “a school along with a church,” making education accessible to all and spread education in Bastar.
VHP then alleged that the bishop’s address promoted “communalism and narrow-mindedness.” It also wrote to Chief Minister Raman Singh alleging “Missionaries put non-democratic pressure on Hindu society and administration on the pretext of education.”
Jagdalpur diocese spokesman and vicar-general Father Abraham Kannampala said the Hindu group has not presented the issues in the proper perspective. “So we decided to have a dialogue with VHP representatives to clear the air,” he told The Times of India.
“On November 21-22, seven church representatives and 12 VHP men met and discussed various issues,” Father Kannampala said, adding, “We accepted some suggestions but did not agree on some other proposals.”
He added, “It’s not as if we’re under pressure from anyone and we made some compromise. Ours was a collaborative, problem solving approach. We didn’t have any objection to non-Christian students addressing school principal as ‘pracharya’, or ‘uppracharya’, or ‘sir’, instead of ‘father’, as demanded by VHP.
Similarly, we agreed to put up photographs of ‘Ma Saraswati’ and ‘great personalities’ who worked for national interest in our educational institutions,” Fr Kannampala said.
VHP Bastar chief Suresh Yadav and Fr Kannampala later issued a joint statement about their consensus at the meeting.