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School in Madhya Pradesh attacked by mob over conversion claims

14 Dec 2021

A mob of over 300 people belonging to Hindu nationalist groups attacked St Joseph's School, Ganj Basoda, in Madhya Pradesh State, India on 6 December. The school was attacked after false allegations circulated that the school was involved in conversions.

Students at the school were taking their Class XII examinations (ages 16 to 18) when members of right-wing Hindu groups, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, started throwing stones at the glass window at the entrance of the school and shouting slogans such as “Jai Shri Ram” (a Hindu chant meaning “Hail Lord Ram”).

Although the students were immediately moved to another room for safety, many were traumatised and could not complete their examinations. The manager of the school, Anthony Pynumkal, claimed that he had received information about the planned attack the previous day and had requested  police protection, but the police failed to arrive until after the mob had dispersed.

The attack was sparked by a YouTube channel report with an image of eight girls receiving holy communion, which suggested that the girls were students at the school and were being converted to Christianity. However, school authorities later clarified that the photo in question was of a confirmation service held at the nearby St Joseph's parish church.

The school authorities have lodged a First Information Report (FIR), which is required for the police to begin an investigation, based on the significant property damage, but Mr Pynumkal claims that the police have downplayed the seriousness of the damages. Five people were arrested in connection with the case on 7 December, and local police have made assurances that they will investigate the case further, including to allegations of forced conversion. The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance 2020 criminalises conversion by force.      

St Joseph's School was established in 2008 and currently has about 1500 students, the majority of whom are non-Christians. 

CSW's Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: "This incident shows how misinformation can lead to violence, which is happening on a frighteningly regular basis in India today. We call on local police to investigate this case swiftly and fully, and to guarantee protection for any individuals and groups who face threats from these dangerous Hindu nationalist groups. We also urge the Indian government to do far more to combat Hindu nationalist rhetoric, ensuring that those responsible for stoking intolerance and division are held to account.”



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