Mumbai (AsiaNews) – A Catholic hospital has been attacked in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, and the nurses who work there have been beaten up by supporters of a Member of Parliament from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Pushpa Mission Hospital is owned by the Syro-Malabar diocese of Ujjain. For the local bishop, Mgr Sebastian Vadakel, this “is an act against the Christian community”.
“The dispute,” the prelate told AsiaNews, “began in late January, when false ownership claims were filed. We have all the valid legal documents that prove [our] property rights.”
Yesterday, “At around 9 am, at least 50 men armed with pickaxes and bulldozers barged in and brought down the compound wall of the Catholic hospital,” said Fr Stephen Maria, head of public relations in the Madhya Pradesh region.
“They also fenced off some 2,000 square feet (about 185 square metres) of hospital land, beat up some nurses, and pushed around some nuns when they came to see what all the commotion was about.”
The mob claimed they had permission from a local court to seize the disputed land.
Behind the troublemakers is Chintamani Malviya, a member of the BJP, and his personal assistant Gagan Singh, who came to the hospital last July to take possession of the hospital.
“Without any orders, they came and demolished the compound wall and damaged the power generator,” said Mgr Vadakel. “This resulted in the disruption of electricity to the hospital and the emergency wards. Water supply too was disrupted.”
Last night, “I personally went, together with two priests, to the governor, and handed him a memorandum,” the bishop said.
“About 80 per cent of Pushpa Mission Hospital patients belong to other communities,” he explained. “Our health care apostolate serves people of all faiths without any discrimination of caste and creed.”
The hospital opened on 1st December 1974 at a time when no medical facilities existed in the area, nor awareness of the importance of village-level healthcare.
At the beginning, doctors and nuns went from village to village to visit, hold medical camps and hand out free medicines.
Mgr Leo Cornelio, bishop of the nearby diocese of Bhopal, has joined Mgr Vadakel in slamming the mob action.
“I strongly condemn the attack on the Pushpa Mission Hospital,” he said in a statement. “It is a systematic plan to bring disturbance and violence to a peace-loving community.
“This type of violence will not be tolerated any more. I ask the authorities to take action against the culprits immediately. Destroying the hospital when the governor was vesting Ujjain City was a cowardly action.”
“The entire Catholic Church is shocked,” Fr Maria Stephen in another statement. “As a minority, we feel unsafe in the midst of repeated attacks against Church personnel and institutions.”
Pictures by Father Anthony