Fr. Agnel's Ashram's Principal Booked Over Hindutva

Bajrangists Accuse Priest Incited Sectarianism

Kishore Rathod. News article in the Mid-Day, Saturday, 26th October, 2002.
Objecting to a question in the Std. XII English paper of the Fr. Agnel School, Vashi, New Bombay, Bajrang Dal activists have filed a police complaint against Fr. Saturnino Almeida, principal of the institution.

The Bajrangists have alleged that the topic of the essay, 'Hindutva Philosophy and its Disastrous Effect on Secular India,' is derogatory and has hurt the sentiments of Hindus.

In his complaint, Kiran Vyavhare, New Bombay Bajrang Dal chief, has said that the essay topic deliberately aims to insult Hinduism and create a rift between religious groups. He said, "We have taken the first step of filing the complaint and are now waiting for the police to take action. If they fail to do so, we'll see what we can do."

Incidentally, the complaint lodged at the Vashi Police Station on 21st October is under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code, the same section under which the Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray was booked for promoting enmity and disturbing harmony between religious groups through his October 15 Dussehra Rally speech.

Authorities had then decided it was not necessary to seek Thackeray's arrest, Fr. Almeida has also been booked under Section 295-A of the penal code, for insulting and defiling a religion.

Keen not to allow the issue to escalate, the police have postponed arresting Fr. Almeida, allowing him time to secure anticipatory bail, which he eventually did yesterday. A senior official of the New Bombay police, who did not wish to be named, said, "These people (complainants) want to make an issue out of anything, unmindful of the sectarian tension it creates." The case, being investigated by Inspector V. B. Satpute, will come up for hearing at the Thane court on Monday.

The question paper had been framed by one of the teachers of the school, but Fr. Almeida declined to reveal the teacher's name, owning moral responsibility for the occurrence.

According to sources, the New Bombay police, under pressure from the complainants, had even offered to arrest just the teacher, but the principal insisted that only he be held responsible. Fr. Almeida refused any comment, saying the matter was sub judice.

Meanwhile, school authorities expressed over the turn of events. An office bearer of the Fr. Agnel School said, "It is unfortunate that for the first time in the school's history, a finger is being raised at its secular credentials." The official added that the school has always considered all religions equal and that is reflected in the school's emblem itself, in the centre of which the Om figures prominently.

"When we start the academic year, we have readings from the Bible as well as the Bhagwad Gita. And all of us are Hindus during Diwali, Muslims during Id and Christians during Christmas," the official added.
DateFri, 1 Nov 2002 08:06:37 -0800 (PST)
FromJohn Menezes
SubjectFwd: [Gulf Goans] Indian Diwali in a Mauritian church / Fr. Saturnino Almeida

I have no time to read the attached krap but those who have read the epilogue in Mid-Day may like to make up a good report for a traditional journal abroad.

John Menezes
Forwarded Message
To[email protected]
DateFri, 1 Nov 2002 03:49:01 -0800 (PST)
Subject[Gulf Goans] Indian Diwali in a Mauritian church / Fr. Saturnino Almeida

Indian Diwali in a Mauritian church

By Kishore Rathod, November 1, 2002
Only last week Bajrang Dal activists accused him of “creating a rift between communities” and “fanning communal disharmony”. A police case was also registered against him for being “anti-Hindu”.

This week, the Christian priest Fr Saturnino Almeida, principal of Fr Agnel School, Vashi, is involved in a Hindu festival event. Almeida is taking a 127-member delegation - 119 students of the school and eight staff members - to celebrate Diwali in a Mauritian church.

The team, which flew to Mauritius on October 29, will stay at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Port Louis, where the World Inter Religious Celebrations are being organised. As part of the weeklong event, all Agnel students - Christians, Hindus and Muslims - will come together under the banner of Hindu House and present Indian cultural programmes on November 2 and 4, the days of Diwali.

Fr Almeida, on the eve of his departure on Tuesday, said, “Our students will not only celebrate Diwali together, but also involve people from all around the world.”

The team is being hosted by the cultural wing of Air Mauritius, which works for world peace and environment. The students have also been invited by the Mauritian Tourism Department to participate in a grand Diwali programme at Domaine les Pailles, which will be telecast live on Mauritian national television. The delegation will return on November 6.

When asked whether the trip is a befitting reply to the Hindu fundamentalists who doubted his secularism, Fr Almeida said, “We were always committed to develop the overall personality of our students without any differences of caste, creed or religion. And this trip is a part of the endeavour.”

He added that as far as the police case was concerned, the matter was sub judice and he would not comment on it. The case will come up for hearing on November 11 before the Thane magistrate.

Fr Almeida is facing charges under Section 153 (A) and 295 (A) of the Indian Penal Code - the same as Sena chief Bal Thackeray for his Dassera speech - after Bajrang Dal activists complained that a question in the school’s Std XII English paper hurt Hindu sentiments.

(Source: Mid Day)
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