THE Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh has raised questions over use of school buses for religious functions as well as Santa Claus distributing chocolates to school students during Christmas.
According to a report in The Times of India, the VHP and its backed outfits have also said they want idols of Godess 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 Jagdalpur diocese bishop mar Joseph Kollamparambil 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 had said the Kerala reformer had introduced the concept for “a school along with 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 CM Raman Singh alleging “Missionaries put non-democratic pressure on Hindu society and administration on the pretext of education”.“The issues weren’t portrayed right.
So we decided to have a dia logue with VHP representatives to clear the air,” said Jagdalpur diocese spokesman and vicar-general Abraham Kannampala.
“On November 21-22, seven church representatives and 12 VHP men met and discussed various issues,” 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,” Kannampala said.
VHP Bastar chief Suresh Yadav and church vicar general and spokesman Fr Abraham Kannampala later issued a joint statement about their consensus at the meeting.