a group of priests tendered an unconditional apology at the meeting
Jesuit priests forced to tender apology at peace panel meeting
From The Hindu
One of them was ‘manhandled' by ABVP activists
A group of Jesuit priests apologised at a peace committee meeting here on Thursday to those who allegedly attacked one of the priests on January 27.
The meeting was called by Anekal tahsildar S. Shive Gowda in connection with an incident on January 27 where ABVP activists allegedly barged into the St. Joseph's Pre-University College in Bahadurpura and shut the institution down. They were agitated over the fact that the Jesuit priests who run the institution had not hoisted the national flag on Republic Day.
Television footage of the incident shows the activists manhandling and berating college principal Melwin Mendonca in the presence of the tahsildar and the police. Mr. Mendonca was then paraded in full public view and taken to the police station by the activists. This was not contested by the activists of various right wing groups who attended the meeting. When the priests tried to present this evidence to the tahsildar, one of the Hindutva leaders stood up and said, “Show all of this to your friends in America. Over here, we make the rules.”
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Shive Gowda said, “The Christians want to take out a rally and file a police case. I have called them here today to convince them that there is no need for anything like that. If they decide to withdraw their [proposed] protest and do not press charges, will you trouble them further?”
When the room, consisting largely of Hindutva ideologues, erupted in agreement, the tahsildar continued, “Then, let us end the matter here and leave the room as friends.”
He admonished the Jesuits for failing to hoist the national flag on Republic Day and advised them that they should do more to prove their allegiance to the flag and the nation.
Led by Freddy D'Silva, vice-president of the Karnataka Jesuit Educational Society, a group of priests tendered an unconditional apology at the meeting. “As citizens of India and as heads of educational institutions, we have made a mistake,” Mr. D'Silva told the gathering.
As he was leaving the meeting, Deputy Superintendent of Police A. Kumaraswamy told The Hindu, “The matter ends here. The ABVP activists have agreed to withdraw their complaint.” Asked about the “complaint” filed by the Jesuits, he said, “They have not filed anything. Anyway, there is no need for all that.”
However, Fr. Mendonca said that a complaint was filed with the police on February 4, but it was not accepted.
Later, Mr. D'Silva said, “The focus of the meeting should have been on the ‘illegal act' where one of us was ‘harassed and detained'. I was pushed into a corner and I apologised. It is not illegal to not hoist the flag but it is illegal to attack and harass somebody.”
Fr. Mendonca has also written to the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission and the Governor seeking justice. “Our future course of action will be decided at the meeting of our governing council,” Mr. D'Silva said.