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'Jesus' at Loreto show, Bajrang bristles

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OUR BUREAU   |     |   Published 11.09.06, 12:00 AM

Sept. 10: Bajrang Dal activists today vandalised Lucknow’s 140-year-old Loreto Convent School, angry at “attempts to convert students to Christianity” at a function where the spirit of Jesus was allegedly invoked.

The attackers broke open the school gates, smashed windowpanes, doors and flowerpots and damaged other property, all the while shouting anti-Christian slogans. They allegedly threw stones at some school staff.

The school had arranged a “retreat” on Wednesday for students of classes VIII to XII where an occultist from Bengal was invited to perform.

In front of around 250 students, some teachers and the principal, Nobo Kumar Mondol danced and hopped, chanting verses, before suddenly falling to the ground.

“He suddenly grabbed his stomach and fell down. We all thought he had fallen seriously ill,” Class XII student Aastha Srivastava said.

The next moment, though, Mondol was up. He announced to the gathering that Jesus had entered his body, and he would bless them all.

Five girls fainted at this point, say school authorities. Some parents have complained that the girls passed out from fright but an agency report quoted the school as saying they fainted because of the “crowded room” and “sultry weather”.

Mondol, a rickshaw-puller, is believed to head the Chandra cult that reportedly has its headquarters in Krishnagar, Nadia. The school said the occultist had been invited at the request of Father Sebastian Kuzhipala, a Catholic priest working in Murshidabad.

“We believe this was part of a plan to convert Hindus to Christianity across the country,” Bajrang Dal spokesperson Shiv Kumar said.

Some parents alleged that Mondal, who claims to be able to speak to the dead, was the medium in a séance. School staff later sprinkled some “holy water, soil and oil” over the children claiming the mix had miracle healing powers.

The school accused the media of “misrepresenting the situation and misquoting the principal, Sister Monica”.

Reports had quoted the principal as saying “I would organise such an event again if I could”, a statement the school denies she ever made.

“As a mark of protest against the attack on the school, all Catholic institutes and most other Christian institutes across Lucknow will remain closed tomorrow,” Sister Felicia said, speaking on behalf of Sister Monica.

But, she added: “It is unlikely the matter will snowball into a national-level crisis.”

Catholic groups in Lucknow are not yet consulting possible moves with other Catholic groups around the country, she said.

Some parents said they were sceptical about the “kind of practices” the school occasionally carried out. “While we have no such issue as the Bajrang Dal, some of the practices — like the occult show — are out of line with today’s world,” said Surabhi Prashar, whose daughter is in Class IX.

The school said it would release a statement either tonight or tomorrow.

The state government has asked the district magistrate to carry out an inquiry and submit a report in three days.

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