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Lucknow: Catholic institutes remain closed in protest

By Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
September 11, 2006 14:31 IST
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At least 15 Catholic educational institutions in Lucknow observed a day's closure on Monday to mark their protest against vandalism resorted to by a group of Bhartiya Janata Party activists at the prestigious Loreto Convent school on Sunday.

The vandals had stormed into the school premises, damaging and ransacking property, besides intimidating nuns living on the campus.

This was because the school allowed a religious prayer in which a Christian from West Bengal claimed that Lord Jesus had entered his body, following which he 'blessed' everyone with his 'miraculous powers'.

"We chose to lodge our protest only through peaceful means; we therefore decided to keep all catholic schools in Lucknow closed on Monday," Father Paul Rodrigues, secretary, Uttar Pradesh Catholic Educational Institutions Association told this reporter.

"We firmly believe in peace and wish that others would let us live in peace," he said.

While expressing satisfaction at the action initiated by the administration against three of the culprits who were arrested on Sunday, he went on to add, "We would want the others involved in the violence also to be arrested and hope the administration will take adequate steps to ensure the safety of our minority institutions."

Even as the institutions remained closed, some students of Loreto Convent gathered at the campus to provide moral support to the school authorities.

"The school principal and authorities did nothing against the interest of the students. No-one is ever compelled by the school to participate in religious activities. We feel that some vested interests were out to tarnish the image of the school by spreading false stories," asserted Varalika Srivastava, a student of Class 11.

School head girl and Class 12 student Anam Zaidi asked - "Why was it not an issue when people were being made to believe that Lord Ganesha's idols were drinking milk or when some people claimed that sea water had turned sweet?"

Zaidi referred to the prayers held on September 6, in which a Christian man from West Bengal was allowed to project himself as someone ordained with the powers of Lord Jesus, who he claimed had entered his body.

Shocked by the 'visible descent' of God inside his body, some of the students were stated to have fainted, sparking off a huge controversy, which led to Sunday's violence.

She claimed, "The person, Nobo Kumar Mandal really had something supernatural and unique about him. I was suffering from an acute back problem for the past one year and no sooner had he touched me with his Holy Cross, the pain disappeared."

Similar 'magical' things happened with some other students who sought his blessings during the prayer session, she added.

Refuting rumours about the school authorities trying to lure children into Christianity, Zaidi clarified, "No-one was asked to even think about Jesus. Instead, Mandal told us to concentrate on any God we believed in."

Students were sore with the media, whom they blamed for 'twisting and turning facts to churn out a sensational story'.

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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow