Attack on Telangana Catholic school: False WhatsApp message instigated crowd, says report by activists

According to locals, the mob went to the town after attacking the school and forcefully closed meat shops owned by Muslims.

BySouth First Desk

Published Apr 26, 2024 | 3:18 PM Updated Apr 26, 2024 | 6:43 PM

catholic school attack fact finding committee

A group of social activists visited a Telangana school which was vandalised by a saffron-clad mob on 16 April and published a “fact-finding report” regarding the incident on Thursday, 25 April.

Two weeks back, on 16 April, a catholic school— Mother Teresa High School, in Kannepally village of Telangana’s Ramagundam district — was attacked by a saffron-clad mob who claimed that students observing Hanuman Deeksha were disallowed into the school premises for not wearing the school uniform.

The incident came to light, when the video of the attack went viral on social media, the next day. Cases were registered against both the mob and the school administration.

Social activists Khalida Parveen, Sarah Mathews, Kaneez Fathima and SQ Masood visited the school and its premises on 20 April and prepared a report.

Mob in saffron attacks Catholic school: Cases registered; father of student seeks punishment for all

The report

According to the report submitted by the three-member committee, one of the main instigations was a false WhatsApp message claiming that the school administration had forced the students in Hanuman Deeksha to remove their “mala”.

The message further declared that “such actions were unacceptable in our country, India, which belongs to us”.

Hanuman Deeksha is a 41-day penance followed according to Hindu traditions, as part of the deeksha, the devotees wear orange clothes and a “mala” (chain).

However, the report stated that the school management did not ask the students to remove their “mala”, but instead asked them to get permission from the principal to continue wearing the orange dress instead of the uniform.

According to them, 10-15 students observing the Deeksha were told by the principal to inform the office if they were going to wear the saffron dress for some more days.

“There was no attempt to forcefully remove the Hanuman malas nor were they stopped from writing the exams,” the management reiterated.

The school management said they had proof that the said students wrote the exams.

The attack

On 16 April, a mob trespassed into the school, vandalised the Mother Theresa statue there and attacked the school management.

As the mob entered the school, they attacked the school correspondent and demanded an apology.

According to the report, the mob was not satisfied with his apology in a closed room and made him apologise from the terrace of the school using a microphone. The correspondent was then asked to chant “Jai Shri Ram”.

Someone from the mob put the tilak on his forehead and made him wear the saffron khandwa (shawl) and Hanuman mala.

Apart from the Mother Theresa statue, the mob also vandalised windows of the first floor, second floor, and computer lab.

According to locals, the committee members spoke to, the mob went to the town after attacking the school and forcefully closed meat shops owned by Muslims.

Also Read: Telangana school officials booked by police over ‘saffron dress’ row

Serving the local community

The report further noted the impact the school had in the village, “The school has been running for 15 years and was most beneficial to the local Hindus, who have been studying with the help of fee concessions.”

“The school has a total of 1,033 students from the Kannepalli Panchayat on its rolls of which only 28 are Christians and 33 are Muslims. There are about 40 teachers of which only 6 are non-locals. The school not only caters quality education to local students but also provides employment to over 100 local people.”

The report also mentioned that two ex-students expelled from the school for misbehaviour were also involved in the attack,

“One of the main instigators behind the attack is the parent of an ex-student, and another person who vandalised the statue is an ex-student.”

It was further noted in the report that the parent then went on to abuse the school management of being anti-Hindu and the principal of pushing conversions.

Speaking to South First on 18 April, one of the parents, whose child was allegedly not allowed to write the exams said, “Both my children have been studying in the same school since their nursery. We have never faced such issues in the past with other Fathers (school officials).”

Asked if he would send his children to the same school, he reiterated, “All these years they were studying in this school and today (18 April) my children went to the same school and returned safely.”

Demands of the committee

The committee demanded a free and fair election as the foremost action.

They stressed the need to arrest the perpetrators immediately along with withdrawing the FIR against the school management.

The report further read, “Immediate measures need to be taken up to ensure peace and harmony in the area by way of engaging with educational institutions, children and community elders.”

“Being a missionary school, the management is vulnerable as there are rumours spread against them. The responsibility of this should be given to the District Collector.”

The committee emphasised the need for “National Integration Councils” at state, district, and mandal levels to spread the message of peaceful coexistence.

(Edited by Sumavarsha Kandula)