Christian institutions targeted in Assam once again

(Photo: Unsplash/Ivan Aleksic)

A menacing new poster carrying an ultimatum demanding the removal of religious symbols from Christian schools has resurfaced in Assam, marking the latest incident in an escalating campaign by Hindu nationalist groups against minority institutions.

The poster, attributed to the Sanmilito Sanatan Samaj, a lesser-known hard-line Hindu outfit, was prominently displayed on February 23 in various cities including Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Jorhat.

In Guwahati, posters appeared on the walls of institutions like Don Bosco School and St. Mary’s School. In Dibrugarh and Jorhat, posters were affixed to prominent educational institutions like Don Bosco High School and Carmel School, respectively.

The group demanded the removal of statues, crosses and other religious symbols from the premises of Christian-run educational institutions with the poster chillingly warning of a final notice to eliminate traces of Christianity from church-run schools in the cities of Assam.

It explicitly targets symbols of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary along with chapels and churches on school grounds, accusing Christian educators of “anti-India” activities and conversion efforts. “This is the final warning to stop using the school as a religious institution…or else,” the poster written in Assamese declared.

Sanmilito Sanatan Samaj has resorted to open threats and coercion after a similar ultimatum was issued in the past weeks by another radical Hindu outfit, Kutumba Suraksha Parishad, sparking outrage and police complaints from Christian leaders.

Church officials view the renewed poster campaign as a direct threat and have again approached police for protection. Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati expressed concern over the persistence of such demands, suspecting the involvement of the same group despite different names.

The posters accuse Christian schools of using education for subtle proselytisation and “anti-India” activities. They demand principals and teachers stop wearing religious garb and end worship services or Christian rituals held on school grounds.

While the outfit clarified that their stance wasn’t against Christians but against what they perceived as efforts aimed at conversion, tensions have been brewing in Assam’s educational landscape. The missionary schools, which have been active in imparting education across Assam’s remote regions, have found themselves at the centre of the controversy.

“We are not against Christians. But we are against the use of religious symbols for conversion. The missionary schools propagate Christianity, not Indian culture,” said a member of the Sanatan Samaj group as reported by The Hindu.

Christian leaders firmly reject the allegations and demands. Christian Today spoke to Allen Brooks of the Assam Christian Forum that represents over 400 schools in the state.

“Every Missionary run Educational Institution has been established and is running under the provisions and guidelines of the Constitution and the Education Boards they are affiliated to,” he said.

The Catholic Church has provided education in remote tribal areas of Assam for decades. Church officials believe fringe Hindu elements are now targeting their schools to stir up tensions against Christians, who comprise just over 3% of the population in Hindu-majority Assam.

“We have informed the Police authorities. However, it is the prerogative of the Government to protect its citizens especially when a group is openly intimidating the Christian Community,” said Brooks.

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