A day after St Joseph School in Ganj Basoda of Madhya Pradesh's Vidisha district was gheraoed by members of right-wing groups including those belonging to the Bajrang Dal over allegations of religious conversion, teachers at the catholic school told The Quint that the approach should have been to sit and talk instead of putting their lives, and those of the students', at risk.
“Who would have been responsible if something would have happened to the children?"Asked a teacher of St Joseph school in Ganj Basoda, Madhya Pradesh.
On 6 December, members of the Hindutva groups pelted stones, raised slogans, and vandalised the building of St Joseph School, alleging that eight Hindu children were converted into Christianity on 31 October by the school authorities.
The allegations were made over a clipping of the St Joseph Church which showed eight children participating at the Holy Communion on 31 October.
At least one parent, whose child was part of the religious ritual, confirmed to The Quint that all the children are Christians. The Madhya Pradesh police have said there is no evidence of conversion prima facie. So far, 11 people have been arrested. However, three were sent to jail and the rest released on bail hours later.
What Happened in Ganj Basoda?
On 6 December, right-wing groups led by Nilesh Agrawal, a key member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, along with members of Bajrang Dal and other fringe groups, called for a ‘gherao’ of the St Joseph school in the Ganj Basoda area of Vidisha district in Madhya Pradesh.
Around 12 pm, the mob of hundreds gathered outside the school chanting ‘missionaries murdabad’, calling out the alleged religious conversion drive. Some then went on a rampage, jumping the school gate and vandalising the school premises.
The miscreants didn’t spare a minute for the children who were appearing for their exams, the teachers or the school staff. The police, although they were intimated beforehand, couldn’t stop them before they pelted stones, disturbed the peace, and frightened those inside the school.
“Students were taking their exams. They got scared. There was a lot of noise. They started asking me what was happening outside the school.”Teacher, St Joseph School, Ganj Basoda
Another teacher, who wanted to remain anonymous, told The Quint, “We were in the staff room when we heard the noise. We came outside. There was sloganeering. There were about 1,000 to 1,500 people who were standing on the road. They came and shook the gate violently. When it didn't break, they jumped over our other gate and came inside. They were carrying rods and stones. They attacked with stones and vandalised our school building.”
“A stone even came inside the school. The kids just picked up their answer sheets, and we all ran to the upper floors for safety, but some stones reached there as well. The broken glasses are still lying in the classrooms.”Teacher, St Joseph School, Ganj Basoda
'This is Religious Conversion'
“The issue is not about a protest or violence. It's about an ideology. If some anti-social elements enter the crowd and pelt stones, we aren't responsible for that,” Nilesh Agrawal, VHP leader, told The Quint.
“This is not an incident. This is religious conversion. This has been happening for years in churches... in St Joseph School, in villages, in the name of service, in the name of education, children are being converted to Christianity. We had information via social media that eight Hindu kids were converted to Christianity. Our job was to gherao the school. But some anti-social elements entered the group and started pelting stones at the school, but our volunteers tried to stop them.”Nilesh Agrawal, VHP leader