Right wing Hindu activists have burnt firecrackers in front of a Catholic school in Madhya Pradesh state to protest the staging a street play on environmental protection and safe celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights.
The protesters burst firecrackers before St Joseph’s Convent School under the diocese of Khandwa, on the night of October 25, a day after Diwali, a popular Hindu festival. They accused the Christian missionaries of defaming Hindu festivals.
The school authorities, however, denied the allegations that their children targeted Hindu festival. “We never intended to target anybody or any religion or its festival,” Sister Neha Mathew, the school principal, told Matters India on October 26.
The member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery said their students had tried to communicate message of celebrating the Diwali festival safely and that there was nothing against Hindu religion or its traditions.”
The nun also added that the students and teachers together celebrate Diwali in her school and regretted that someone had tried to give a genuine object a communal color.
The Hindu activists were enraged at a street play the students and teachers of the Catholic school staged in the town on October 21 to create awareness about environmental protection and the need for celebrating Diwali safely.
The protesters accused the Catholic school of deliberately targeting the Hindu festival through the play claiming that cracking firecrackers would lead to environmental pollution, a charge the school authorities denied.
On Diwali people decorate their houses, offices and even government buildings with lights and burst firecrackers as part of the celebration.
Often the extensive use of firecrackers during Diwali leads to environmental pollution especially in major cities such as New Delhi, the national capital, and efforts are on to promote environmental friendly firecrackers to avoid pollution.
The protestors claiming themselves as representing the entire the Hindu community, alleged that “the objective of the play was to target Hindu community as its focus was that the burning firecrackers would lead to environmental pollution.”
They also warned the Christian missionaries of serious consequences in case the same is repeated and even threatened to beat them up.
“This is our first and last warning,” said a protester. He told media persons that the Christian missionaries were trying to denigrate the Hindu religion and its festivals and such acts would not be tolerated.
Pointing out that Christians burst firecrackers on Christmas they asked, “Would it not cause environmental pollution?”.
They also vowed to protect Hindu religion and its festivals.
Father Jaya Alex, the public relations officer of the diocese, also condemned targeting Christians for no reasons.
The priest, in a statement, said some people targeted Christian institutions, especially those managed by Catholics, to create communal divide in society.
The Christian community, Father Alex added, “Does not discriminate anyone on the basis of religion, caste, creed or other concerns.”
Madhya Pradesh has witnessed several such incidents in the past and Christians accused right wing Hindu groups of targeting them even after doing so much of selfless services for the advancement of the poor and the downtrodden.
The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party now rules the central Indian state. Christians make up just 0.29 percent of more than 71 million population, majority of them Hindus.