Monday, September 11, 2006

BJP members attack Lucknow convent

Lucknow, Sep 10 (IANS)

Members of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) youth wing Sunday allegedly stormed into the Loreto Convent school here and threatened the nuns in the wake of 'Jesus Christ's' appearance in an occult show.

The sisters, who live on the school campus, said they were taken by surprise when a group of 30 to 40 men carrying BJP flags broke open the locked gates of the school and began damaging the property.

For about 15 minutes, the men broke windowpanes of offices and the chapel, smashed flowerpots and raised slogans against the 135-year-old school for allowing a man to claim he had turned into the lord.

School principal Sister Tressia said: 'Initially, I rushed out and appealed to them with folded hands not to indulge in violence, but then some of them attempted to charge at me. I hurriedly rushed inside and bolted the door from inside to call the police.'

She said, 'They then started smashing the glass panes on doors and windows with wooden rods and stones, and also flung our flowerpots on to the windowpanes of the school chapel.

'Fortunately, the police arrived on the scene following which they ran away and we were spared.'

The attackers carried placards and posters condemning the school and accused the principal of 'forcing' students to participate in religious rituals, allegedly with the intent of luring them to conversion - a charge vociferously refuted by the school authorities, students and parents alike.

Reacting to the controversy over a prayer meeting in which a special invitee of the school miraculously turned into 'Christ' on Sept 6, she said, 'There was nothing shady about that special assembly.'

Sister Tressia defended the occult show. 'It was one of our spiritual assemblies where our aim is to let the children have an experience of god. And here was this man with divine powers who was brought by a parish priest from West Bengal to provide that experience.'

She clarified that 'participation in the assembly was absolutely optional and we had made it clear to all students and teachers that they were free to leave if they so desired'.

However, Tressia admitted, 'probably on account of the shock, one or two girls fainted, but they were back shortly thereafter and even their parents have no complaint on that count.'

'A rickshaw-puller until about seven years ago, Nobo Kumar Mandal acquired miraculous healing powers with which he not only cured his own kidney failure, but also thousands of people who visit his centre in a rural pocket of Krishnanagar in West Bengal.

'He came here with father Sebastian, a well known parish priest from Murshidabad in the same state,' she added.

Father Sebastian later told IANS from Murshidabad, 'I fail to understand why you all are suspicious.'

'Mandal really has miraculous healing powers. You have to see to believe that the lord actually descends on him to bless those who seek his blessings,' he claimed.

The Association of Catholic Educational Institutions has decided to keep its schools closed Monday as a mark of protest against the attack, association secretary Father Paul Rodrigues told reporters.

© 2006 Indo-Asian News Service

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