It was a day of terror for Christians at St Joseph University Institute in Anekal, near Bangalore in the Indian state of Karnataka. More than 100 members of radical anti-Christian Hindu groups, assailed the campus on January 30, using as a pretext their belief that India's national flag had not been on display in observance of Republic Day. Members of India's radical sectarian groups, "Vishwa Hindu Parishad", "Bajrang Dal", "Sakthi Rashtra Sene", and  "Karnataka Rakshana Vedike" were represented among the members of the mob that broke into the university campus and interrupted lessons. 

The dean of the institute, Rev. Melwin Mendonca, SJ, reported that students and faculty lived through hours of apprehension during the seige, which showed signs of complicity on the part of local authorities. According to Father Melwin,  there were some municipal councilors who joined the mob. In addition, when school administrators called for police protection, it was observed that "the inspector and police officers were spectators of the violence, they even allowed that the unrest on the campus lasted for two hours", according to the dean.

Father Melwin was not allowed to make any statement. The crowd clamored for his arrest. The priest tried to calm the situation, even agreeing to being arrested without charges so as to satisfy the riotous mob. But instead of being transported by car, police complied with the crowd's cries and forced the priest to make the journey to the police station on foot. The rioters followed the police detail and the priest while chanting threats and denigration aimed at the Christian minority. Students from the university tried to protect the dean, but were severely beaten by members of the Hindu mob.

The dean was detained by the police for no reason, from noon to 9 pm. When he was released, the police did not  register any complaint for personal assault, unlawful entry to the campus, or for the beating of the students.
 

"The display of the flag was a pretext. Hindu radical groups visited our institute eight times in the last academic year. They demanded that our students adhere to their movements. Some Hindu leaders claim that the permission to carry out the work of education is revoked and that Christians are not granted licenses for educational institutes because, they say, they destroy the culture of India. We have many similar cases in Karnataka, where Christians are persecuted", said Father Melwin.

 St. Joseph University Institute has existed in Anekal for over 40 years. It currently welcomes 378 students, 200 of whom are Dalits or members of lower castes, 60 belong to other indigenous groups.

From FIDES and agencies.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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