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Church leaders decry attack on Catholic-run hospital in India

(Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee)Demonstrators shout slogans as they hold placards during a protest outside a church in New Delhi February 5, 2015.

Church leaders have decried the attack carried out by a mob led by the personal assistant of a local parliamentarian on a Catholic-run church in Ujjain city.

According to World Watch Monitor, the mob, led by Gagan Singh, personal secretary of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Chintamani Malviya, vandalized and bulldozed a section of the wall of the Pushpa Mission Hospital on the morning of March 12.

The attack also damaged the electrical supply and generator unit and disconnected the water supply to the hospital, which has around 200 beds.

Church authorities have tried to contact top government officials, but no police turned up as the mob continued vandalizing the hospital. The mob reportedly pulled down the compound wall and replaced it with iron fencing, stretching four meters into the road.

"We desperately contacted the police chief, district collector and met even the state Governor [who was in Ujjain on the day] but none of them did anything," said Bishop Sebastian Vadakkel, of the affected diocese in the city of Ujjain.

Vadakkel said that the church had been in possession of the hospital complex for 57 years and there had been no complaints. He noted that the claim to the land was first raised in 2015 — "by manipulating government land records."

On Jan. 27, members of the BJP, the pro-Hindu party that runs the state government, reportedly made an attempt to take over the land and accused the church of illegally occupying the site.

A stay order to maintain the status quo of the hospital was granted by the Madhya Pradesh High Court on Feb. 2 until further hearing, but the case has since been transferred to a lower court for a police investigation and hearing.

The lower court stated on March 8 that there was no longer a need for a stay order as the case and investigation were proceeding peacefully. However, the attack took place just two days after the church authorities requested the stay order.

Several nuns and nurses were reportedly "abused" and "pushed around" when they tried to stop the attack on the hospital.

"This is shocking. We cannot tolerate such goondaism [violent hooliganism]," Archbishop Leo Cornelius, head of the Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh, told World Watch Monitor. "Such things are happening in many places. It is disturbing to note that government officials turn [away] in such situations. I am visiting the area tomorrow," he added.

Vadakkel had noted that the local women's police station had turned away the nurses who wanted to lodge a complaint. The bishop said he believes that the attack was an attempt to intimidate the poor people so that they would stay away from Christian institutions.

Since the BJP came into power in New Delhi in 2014, the attacks against Christians have increased significantly. According to Persecution Relief, there have been 736 reported cases of attacks against Christians in 2017, up from 348 in 2016.

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