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Monday, 13 August, 2001, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Bombay churches in protest strike
Broken cross
Hardline Hindu groups have been blamed for attacks
By Sanjeev Srivastava

Nearly 200 Catholic schools and colleges in Bombay and the neighbouring Thane district of western India closed on Monday to protest at an attack last week on a Catholic priest.

Christian protest
Christians protest over violence
The closure of Christian educational institutions was in response to a call made by the Archbishop of Bombay, Ivan Dias, who described the attack on the priest as senseless and barbaric.

In some Catholic schools, students returned home after offering prayers of atonement.

Catholic employees also wore black badges to their offices as a mark of protest.

The police have arrested 15 members of a hardline Hindu group, Bajrang Dal, in connection with the attack.

'Apology demanded'

Bajrang Dal activists are alleged to have attacked the priest, Oscar Mendonza, in Thane district last week.

They demand an apology from him for the murder of some Hindu activists in the north-eastern state of Tripura nearly two years ago - allegedly by Christians.

When the priest refused, he was beaten up and the church vandalised.

The Bajrang Dal has denied any involvement in the attack.

However, it has refused to join a meeting of other political parties called for Independence Day on 15 August to condemn the incident.

This is the latest in a series of anti-Christian violence by ultra-nationalist Hindu groups in recent years.

Such incidents have, however, mainly been reported from the predominantly tribal regions of Orissa, Gujarat, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

Its occurrence in a big city such as Bombay is believed to be a cause for concern for the authorities.

See also:

22 May 00 | South Asia
Christians attacked in south India
01 Feb 00 | South Asia
Missionary 'killer' arrested in India
30 Sep 99 | South Asia
India under fire over Christian rights
24 Sep 99 | South Asia
Protests at nun sex attack
25 Jan 99 | South Asia
Thousands mourn missionary's death
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