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Indian Catholic Leaders Decry College Attacks after Court Ruling

ICC Note:

The fact that good news for Christian institutions is met with violence and vandalism reveals again how deep the opposition is to Christianity and how much more the government needs to prioritize protecting religious liberties.

Catholic Online (07/20/06) – Catholic Church leaders and organizations have condemned the vandalism against Christian educational institutions.

According to the Indian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Students Federation of India, associated with the ruling Communist Party of India government in Kerala, smashed computer, vehicles, doors and windows of some church-run educational institutions in the southern Indian state July 18 following a court order that seemed to favor self-financing professional colleges run by religious minority communities.

The Kerala High Court said that current practice must be maintained in admitting students in these professional colleges despite a new law that suggested changes in the process.

The controversial law stipulated that colleges can fill only 15 percent of the available seats with students of their choice, while the rest should be composed of students from a statewide merit list.

“It is disgraceful that Marxist student outfits are attacking minority institutions that are serving the society,” said Changanassery Archbishop Joseph Powathil, chairman of the Education Commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council and the Inter-Church Education Council.

“This seems to be an attempt to replace the rule of law with jungle law,” Archbishop Powatil said.

“Everybody should be ready for compromise. This vengeful reaction against the peaceful response to the anti-minority act under the guise of the Professional College Act, with the silent nod of the government, is undemocratic,” Archbishop Powathil said.

He said the ruling Marxist party in Kerala will have to pay the price for the decision to resort to violent methods following an unfavorable court verdict.

Verapoly Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil also expressed concern over the growing intolerance against private educational institutions runs by church groups in Kerala.

“Attacking our educational institutions is not an answer to settle problems associated with student admissions,” he said.

The Kerala Catholic Youth Movement said the government should not allow anybody to take law into their hands. “The progressive student movements should give up vandalism and violence,” John Britto, youth movement president, said.

Archbishop Powathil said that the church approached the court on the issue due to minority rights being at stake.

The Kerala government, led by an alliance of left parties, introduced the law saying it wants to help economically poor people get higher education. But Catholic and other Christian church leaders said the government aims to virtually take control over institutions of higher education.

The Kerala government submitted an appeal July 19.