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Church troubled over Hindu threat to schools

02/17/09 INDORE, India (UCAN) — Church people in Madhya Pradesh state have expressed anguish over a Hindu group’s threat to campaign against Christian schools.

On Feb. 13, an official of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarti Parishad (ABVP, All India students’ union) told media in Indore, the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh, that his groups would oppose Christian schools that do not sing the national anthem or allow patriotic practices

The ABVP is the student wing of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian people’s party) that now rules the central Indian state.

Vishnu Dutt Sharma, the campaign leader, told UCA News that some Christian and Muslim educational institutions in the state do not sing the national anthem or allow their students to shout slogans praising the nation.

The student leader said his people would identify Christian schools holding such “anti-national attitudes” and report them to the police and government.

However, Father Cajetan D’Mello, president of Indore Catholic Schools Association, says the ABVP threat is uncalled for but pointed out that the ABVP enjoys government support.

The Church official asserted that Christian schools regularly sing the national anthem and national song. Christian schools in India are “very strong advocates of nationalism, patriotism and the secular democratic principles,” he said. He termed the threat as “a deliberate attempt to malign Christian institutions.”

The national song, which is different from the national anthem, was written to show India’s quest for freedom from the British, and has implied references to Hindu religion and culture. It could not become the national anthem as some Muslim leaders found it offensive as it depicts India as the Hindu goddess Durga.

Meanwhile, Kailash Vijayvargiya, the state’s industry minister supported the ABVP move while speaking to an English TV news channel. He said his government would act against schools that do not respect the national anthem.