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Catholic hospital in India attacked and vandalized

Suspected Hindu activists attacked Pushpa Mission Hospital in Ujjain in March, following a land dispute.

By Robin Gomes

A Catholic hospital in central India’s Madhya Pradesh became the target of an attack by suspected Hindu extremists state on Monday, who manhandled staff and damaged the property, UCANEWS reported.

Attack on property, personnel

Some 60 people attacked and pulled down the boundary wall of Pushpa Mission Hospital in the temple town of Ujjain, in a state considered to be a hotbed of anti-Christian violence. 

Hospital director, Father Anthony Pulickamandapam told UCANEWS the attackers came armed with a bulldozer and sharp-edged weapons. They demolished the boundary wall, erected a fence and put up some makeshift shops to claim the land. 

"Our staff including Catholic nuns who attempted to resist the advance were manhandled and forced to flee for safety," he said. 

"They also destroyed the back-up power generator and disconnected the water supply, putting the lives of nearly 200 patients including 12 in the intensive care unit in serious danger."

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Property dispute

The hospital director explained that the hospital has been facing trouble since January after the personal assistant of a local parliamentarian staked a claim to the land in front of the hospital that the local civic body had given to the hospital for use as a parking area and to maintain its greenery.

Members of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that rules the state, attempted to take over the land on Jan. 27.  As a result, Pushpa Mission Hospital moved the court.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court on Feb. 2 issued a stay order to maintain the status quo until further hearing.  The court transferred the case to a lower court for a police investigation and hearing.

Bishop Sebastian Vadakkel of Ujjain told UCANEWS on March 8 that the lower court said there was no need for a stay order as the case and investigation were proceeding peacefully.

The 12 March attack took place two days after church authorities sought another stay order.

Police inaction, planned attack

Bishop Vadakkel said hospital staff were surprised by the inaction of the police. The local police station and other senior officials refused to respond to calls for help. "Even our staff nurses, who approached the women's police station to lodge a complaint, were turned away," he said.

Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal said the attack was part of "a systematic plan to bring disturbance and violence among a peace-loving community."  He call on the state government to arrest the culprits immediately.

A Catholic delegation led by Bishop Vadakkel met state governor Anandiben Patel, who was visiting the town and sought protection for Christians and their properties.

Bishop Vadakkel believes the attack was an attempt to intimidate poor people to keep them away from Christians and their institutions.

Giving poor access to healthcare

Pushpa Mission Hospital, that operates under the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Ujjain, was founded on December 1, 1974, at a time when villages and rural areas around Ujjain city lacked access to healthcare and health programmes.

Initially, the nuns and doctors went to villages to conduct medical camps, provide free medicines and spread awareness about health and human dignity.

Today Pushpa Mission Hospital is a 200-bed facility with numerous departments such as general medicine, surgery, psychiatry, gynaecology, pediatrics, orthopaedics,  dental care and ophthalmology.  Particularly focused on women, children and the poor, Pushpa Mission Hospital sees through around 400 deliveries every month.

Surge in attacks under BJP

The BJP, which has ruled Madhya Pradesh state for 15 years after winning three successive elections, will seek another term in the state election due at the end of this year. 

Hindu groups present themselves as protectors of Hindu rights to garner Hindu votes and an easy way to that end is to attack Christians, who comprise less than one percent of the 73 million people in the state, church officials say.

Madhya Pradesh had the greatest number of anti-Christian incidents in India last year, according to a report by Persecution Relief, an ecumenical forum that records Christian persecution in India. It witnessed 52 attacks against Christians in 2017, up from 28 in 2016, the report said.

Attacks have increased since the BJP came to power in New Delhi in 2014. There were 736 reported attacks against Christians in 2017, up from 348 in 2016, said Persecution Relief.  (Source: UCANNEWS.COM)

14 March 2018, 10:55