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VHP angry at convent conversion of students - The Asian Age

Amita Verma ()
27 August 1997

Title: VHP angry at convent conversion of students
Author: Amita Verma
Publication: The Asian Age
Date: August 27, 1997

Attempts made by three Christian missionary schools in Uttar Pradesh's
Uttarakhand region to convert students to Christianity through a
"self-awareness programme" has kicked off a series of protests in the region.

While the state government expresses its helplessness on the issue saying
that missionary schools are beyond its jurisdiction, the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad is preparing to launch a major agitation on the issue.

According to reports here, a "self-awareness programme was" conducted by
three priests of the Roman Catholic order in Haldwani's Nirmala Convent on
August 5. Children in the age group of 10 to 16 years were huddled into a
church where they were made to chant prayers and religious words in
Hebrew. As the programme worked up to a frenzy, some of the children
started throwing up and reacting violently. Some children fainted while a
few others went into convulsions. Five students were hospitalised while
others reported signs of trauma after the programme.

Earlier, similar self-awareness programmes has been held in Catholic
schools in Nainital from July 28 to August 3 and in Jolikote on August 4,
Children in these schools has also made similar responses during the
programme. The third programme in Haldwani, however, drew angry protests
from citizens and parents, forcing a two-week closure of the school. The
principal of Nirmala Convent was later arrested on a report though no
action was initiated against the visiting priests.

Though the school authorities, when contacted on phone by this
correspondent, refused to comment on the incidents, a senior teacher at the
school confirmed the "unexpected reaction that the programme has triggered
among the students." None of the teachers of the school were permitted by
the priests to remain present during the programme. When we learnt that the
children were throwing up and fainting inside the church, we tried to get
inside but the priests said that this was normal when you established a
communication with God." Later the authorities said that children fainted
because they were hungry," a senior staff member said on condition of
anonymity. The teacher further confirmed that a number of children who has
participated in the controversial programme were still not in a position to
attend school. "Their parents has told us that the children are behaving in
an erratic manner. Some of then get up at night and call out to Yesu
(Jesus) while others have not yet overcome the trauma," the teacher said. A
section of girl students who attended the programme are said to be "waiting
to convert to Christianity."

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