Hazaribagh police on Tuesday detained 16 activists of the RSS-affiliated ABVP for minor vandalism outside two town-based Christian schools, forcing one of them to be closed for the day.
The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad was unhappy that Holy Cross and St. Xavier’s, CBSE-affiliated, were open despite an education bandh call by the organisation. The ABVP has been protesting the high fees at educational institutions across the state, something the BJP-led government of Raghubar Das has been trying to regulate.
However, only two of the 18 private educational institutions were attacked on Tuesday despite all the schools in the town being open on the day. There are a total of three Catholic-run educational institutions in the town; both schools attacked are co-ed while Mount Carmel is a girls’ school. Hazaribagh is the constituency of Union Minister of State for Finance, Jayant Sinha.
The Principal of Holy Cross said that once inside the campus, the ABVP’s demands changed. “They wanted to know why we did not have a photo of Prime Minister Modi in the school, why we had a photo of St. Francis by no statues of Saraswati. They accused us of receiving money from London,” said Sr. Clerita D’Mello.
Holy Cross had to end teaching for the day and send students home. “They kicked open doors, broke a few flower pots and demanded that the school be emptied in 15 minutes. By then, our children had started crying in classrooms,” said the Principal.
She said that the district administration and ABVP had been pressurising the newly-affiliated school to accept Right To Education norms. “We have applied for minority status and are due to receive the certificate next month. According to the Supreme Court, we cannot be forced to accept RTE,” she said.
After forcing Holy Cross shut, the mob of about 60 men travelled down the road to St. Xavier’s, where it demanded to meet the Principal. “I refused to meet a mob and insisted they send representatives,” said Principal Fr. P.J. James. St. Xavier’s refused to close for the day despite the ABVP’s demands. “Once in our meeting room, they accused us of being a teaching shop. I told them that they were not parents and that parents or authorities were yet to make such complaints about us,” said the Principal. Local newspapers reported on Wednesday the the ABVP is planning more protests against the schools.
The mob was lathi-charged outside St. Xavier’s school. “They were there and issuing threats without having any proper reason. We appealed them to disperse in peace, but they refused. We had no choice but to lathi-charge in a limited way and detain some of them,” said a police official at the scene but did not want to be identified as he is not authorised to brief the press.