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Since 1st March, 1999
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NCP bid to save face on nun attack

Mumbai, April 19: Ten days after Nationalist Congress Party leaders blackened the face of a convent school principal for refusing them admissions, the high command has — in an unprecedented clean-up act — “showcaused” the wrongdoers.

An NCP leader said the party had decided to issue the notices and unconditionally apologise to Sister Veronica Fernandes, principal of Holy Cross Convent High School, to avoid parallels with the Shiv Sena.

“We were being compared to the Shiv Sena and it was alleged we had adopted their strong arm tactics,” an NCP leader said. “We had to do something about it.’’

“We should not work like Shiv Sainiks. Ours is a national party and such incidents tarnish our image. Those guilty of attacking the nun will be sternly warned,” party spokesman Narendra Verma added.

The NCP has issued notices to Jeetendra Awhad, the legislator whose recommendations were refused, and Sujatha Ghag, the NCP women’s wing leader who threw ink on the nun’s face and led the mob.

On April 9, a frenzied all-woman NCP group barged into the Thane school and attacked the principal. They also warned her that next time there was a request for admissions, she should act differently.

Initially, the local police refused to lodge an FIR against Ghag, the NCP Mahila Aghadi president. A senior NCP leader even tried to justify the attack, saying if schools made provisions for recommendations from the Shiv Sena, why couldn’t they do the same for the NCP'

Matters took a drastic turn after Mumbai’s cardinal Archbishop Ivan Dias sent letters to the Governor, chief minister and NCP leaders and requested them to do something about “the trend and its alarming consequences”.

Appealing to Governor Mohammad Fazal and chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, the archbishop said they should take serious note of the “assault” on the Thane school principal.

In a statement released earlier this week, the archbishop said missionary schools were getting nervous about the show of aggression by political leaders and that “the issue has to be seriously tackled for the breach of law and order by the (NCP) women, headed by Sujata Ghag”.

The archbishop said the actions of the NCP women “blatantly contravene the policy and strict directives issued by the Archdiocesan Board of Education as well as the recent Supreme Court’s decision requiring that school admissions be done solely on the basis of merit”.

Maintaining it was unfair to target the Sisters of the Cross, the archbishop said they had been running an open school for dropouts and a special school for disabled children in Thane, apart from the convent.

Thane police, however, didn’t help the school much. They freed the accused activists on bail for a non-bailable offence — breaking into a property with a premeditated intention to hurt and injure — citing reasons of space in the thana.

An administrative officer of a well-known Bandra school said: “It’s a different matter the Thane incident was picked up by the media, but the fact remains we have to give in when a senior leader --- whether from the Shiv Sena, the Congress or the NCP --- requests us for admission. The methods and the manner of seeking a favour may be different, but the pressure remains the same.”

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