Suspected Hindu extremists used a bulldozer to demolish the wall of a Catholic mission hospital and attacked staff, including nuns, in the latest incident in Madhya Pradesh state in central India which has seen growing violence against Christians.
Some 60 people razed the boundary wall of the 44-year-old Pushpa Mission Hospital in the temple town of Ujjain on March 12, blocking its emergency entrance and destroying equipment, including power generators, according to ucanews.com.
Fr Anthony Pulickamandapam, the hospital director, said that the hospital has been facing danger since January after Gagan Singh, the personal assistant of a local legislator, staked a claim over disputed land.
authorities obtained a stay order from the Madhya Pradesh High Court on February 2, to maintain the status quo until a further hearing, but the court reportedly transferred the case to a lower court for a police investigation and hearing.
Bishop Sebastian Vadakel of Ujjain told ucanews.com that the lower court said on March 8 that, as the case and investigation were proceeding peacefully, there was no need for a stay order. The attack then took place two days after church authorities sought another stay order.
The attackers came armed with a bulldozer and sharp-edged weapons, demolished the boundary wall, erected a fence and put up some makeshift shops to claim the land, Fr Pulickamandapam said.
'Our staff, including Catholic nuns, who attempted to resist the advance were manhandled and forced to flee for safety,' he told ucanews.com. 'They also destroyed the backup power generator and disconnected the water supply, putting the lives of nearly 200 patients – including 12 in the intensive care unit – in serious danger.'
Bishop Vadakel said that the hospital's staff were surprised by the police inaction, with the local police station and other senior officials refusing to respond to calls for help.
'Even our staff nurses, who approached the women's police station to lodge a complaint, were turned away,' he said.
A Catholic delegation led by Bishop Vadakel met governor Anandiben Pateland, seeking protection for Christians and their properties.
Bishop Vadakel told ucanews.com that he believes the attack was an attempt to intimidate poor people in order to keep them away from Christians and their Christian institutions.
Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal said that the attack was part of 'a systematic plan to bring disturbance and violence among a peace-loving community'.
Christians make up less than one per cent of the 73 million people in the state.
Madhya Pradesh had the greatest number of anti-Christian incidents in India in 2017, according to a report by Persecution Relief, an ecumenical forum that records Christian persecution in India. The report said that the state witnessed 52 attacks against Christians in 2017, up from 28 in 2016.
Persecution Relief research showed that attacks have increased since the BJP came to power in New Delhi in 2014, with 736 reported attacks against Christians in 2017, up from 348 in 2016.