India 'wants to chase away Catholics' as Church-run hostel shut down

A Catholic bishop in India is accusing the local government of trying to 'harass Catholics' after it closed a church-run local hostel, moving the boys to a state-run boarding school.

The Guna district council in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh closed the project, which has run since 1997, amid accusations the school was trying to convert the boys to Christianity.

The incident comes amid a spate of Christian organisations being forced to close by the Hindu-nationalist government.(Christian Aid Mission)

Madhya Pradesh is one of seven states in India to pass anti-conversion laws and has been run by the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2003, which has has strong links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militant Hindu nationalist organisation.

Father Siljo Kidangan admitted there had been an administration error in the property filing but said the government was using that as an excuse to disband the Christian charity.

'We have been offering hostel facilities for students from poor families who study in a nearby government school. Among them brilliant students were picked up admitted to good schools for better education,' Kidangan told Matters India. 'But now the administration under mounting pressure from the right-wing Hindu groups, sealed the hostel and shifted the boys on the ground that our land record missed a signature from the district collector.'

Bishop Anthony Chirayath of the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Sagar said the hostel closing was another example of 'harassment and persecution of the minorities' in India.

He told the Catholic website Crux: 'This is only persecution of the minorities, the groups want to chase away Catholics from the area, additionally they want to close down the hostel. The police investigated the allegations that 200 people were converted, and the police have concluded that the conversion allegations are completely false.

'Secondly, the hostel land belongs to us. All the hostel documents are valid and legal and this too has been verified by the police after investigations.'