Hindu right wing group disrupts Christmas celebration at Karnataka school

The incident took place at Nirmala English High School and College in Mandya’s Pandavapura town.
Hindu right wing group disrupts Christmas celebration at Karnataka school
Hindu right wing group disrupts Christmas celebration at Karnataka school
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In another incident of right wing groups targeting Christians, members of a Hindutva organisation stormed into a school in Karnataka’s Mandya district where a Christmas celebration was taking place and demanded that the teachers stop the festivities. Videos of the incident that took place at Nirmala English High School and College in Mandya’s Pandavapura town on Thursday, December 23, surfaced online. Pandavapura police officials said that there has been no complaint filed but added that they have warned the members of the Hindutva group for disrupting activities at the school.

The visuals show a group of men shouting at teachers and others gathered in a school building. One person, from the group, can be heard asking if the school will allow a saffron shalya (shawl), over the shoulder. The school principal, Kanika Francis Mary told NDTV that the school holds a Christmas celebration every year. This year, though it was initially called off due to COVID-19, a small celebration was being held on the insistence of the students. She told the news channel that the students voluntarily contributed money of Rs 50 each to get a cake for the celebration. She added that the school has students from all religions and that Deepavali, Ramzan and Christmas are all celebrated in the school.

"We have seen the video and we have called the members of Hindutva groups who barged into the school and warned them," a police official in Pandavapura told TNM.

According to the police, the group was tipped off by one of the parents of the students that the school “celebrates only Christian holidays and not Hindu festivals”. In the video, members of the Hindutva group were seen barging into the school and threatening the principal, asking whether they will hang a portrait of goddess Shiva or Saraswathi in the school and directed her to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi on the school premises.  The men are heard saying, “Hindu children are wearing Santa dress, Mary dress..This school is from the British and they are not for our country.” The principal added that they accused the school of “carrying out conversions."The teachers in the school pointed out that most of the students in the school were Hindu and that there were no conversions happening. In the video that has since been shared widely, the members of the Hindutva group claimed that students should not be influenced by the teachers to support Christianity.

This is not the first time such an incident has happened, where Christian institutions have been targeted by right wing groups. However, the BJP government in Karnataka has claimed that ‘no churches have been attacked’ and the incidents are ‘fabricated.’ 

Over the past few weeks, in the run-up to the tabling of the controversial anti-conversion Bill in the Assembly, there have been multiple reports of churches and Christian prayer halls being attacked. There have been incidents ranging from Sunday masses being disrupted to sword-wielding men entering church premises. In Belagavi, where a Hindutva group barged into a church prayer meeting alleging ‘illegal conversions,’ the police told Christians in Belagavi to avoid prayer meets if they don't want right-wing attacks.

The Karnataka government introduced the ‘Protection of Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021,’ which aims to penalise illegal conversions. It prescribes a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail, and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh. Opposition parties, activists, citizens and legal experts have voiced concerns over the Bill. The Bill came into being after a BJP MLA claimed ‘mass conversions’ in Karnataka. However, a TNM investigation has exposed his claims.

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