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Across Assam, Hindutva Group's Posters Issue 'Final Warnings' to Christian Institutions

The posters, printed by the Sammilata Sanatan Samaj group in Assamese, have said, 'This is the final warning to stop using the school as a religious institution…stop anti-Bharat and unconstitutional activities or else…'.
The poster on a missionary school in Assam. Photo courtesy: The Meghalayan

New Delhi: Following a recent call by a Hindutva group, Sanmilita Sanatan Samaj, to avoid all religious symbols and costumes in educational institutions in Assam, a number of top Christian institutions across the northeastern state have seen posters stuck on their premises, warning them against using their schools as religious institutions. 

The posters, printed by the group in Assamese, have said, “This is the final warning to stop using the school as a religious institution…stop anti-Bharat and unconstitutional activities or else…”.

The minority institutions were asked to “remove” churches from within their school premises, along with all idols of Jesus and Mary. The posters also said, “Christian missionary educational institutions should stop ignoring the proposed New Education Policy (of the Narendra Modi government) and show respect to the Indian Parliament.”

On February 18, authorities at the well-known Carmel School in Jorhat approached the local police after spotting such a poster on its boundary wall. 

“The application, written by school principal Sister Rose Fatima, said that her institution had ‘been very accommodating and respectful towards people of every religion and culture’ and maintained an ‘atmosphere of peace and tranquility’,” reported The Telegraph. The news report said that the police station had confirmed the development and was investigating the matter. 

Soon, the posters were spotted at the Don Bosco Boys School and Saint Mary’s School in Guwahati and other Christian minority schools in Barpeta, Dibrugarh and Sivasagar towns. Posters were signed in Guwahati’s busy Dighalipukhuri area and Nehru Park too.

According to news reports, the poster campaign by the Guwahati-based outfit begun after it asked Christian missionary-run schools on February 7 to remove all religious symbols and statues from their premises within 15 days. A similar diktat was issued by another group, Kutumba Suraksha Parishad, recently.

“We are not against the Christians. But we are against the subtle use of religious symbols aimed at conversion. The missionary schools focus on propagating Christianity, not India or Indian culture,” a member of the Sanmilita Sanatan Samaj told The Hindu.

The Assam Christian Forum has termed these posters an act by “fringe elements” but has told reporters that the institutions have alerted the state director general of police and the relevant district police chiefs.

“Our institutions have always respected and accommodated individuals of all religions and cultures, maintaining a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere. Had conversion been our goal, at least half of Assam would have been Christians by now,” a member of the Forum told The Hindu.

There are about 400 such educational institutions runs by Christian missionaries across the state.

Himanta’s comments

The poster campaign by the Hindutva groups has come at a time when Assam chief minister has equated magical healing with proselytisation by Christian missionaries. BJP government in Assam has tabled a controversial bill in the assembly. Named Assam (Healing) Prevention of Evil Practices Bill, 2024, the proposed law was tabled in the assembly on February 21. CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, thereafter, told reporters that the Bill would stop all healing practices which are carried out by some with an ulterior motive in the state, leading the Assam Christian Forum to call it a “misguided and misleading” comment. 

“Healing, in our context, is not synonymous with proselytisation. It is a compassionate response to human suffering, irrespective of religious affiliations,” the forum said, insisting that labelling prayer as magical healing oversimplifies the profound spiritual dimensions of faith and life.

The Bill has also been criticised by Nagaland Baptist Church Council. The Council has termed it a manifestation of “religious bigotry” and an “insensitive act”.

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