School in Bagalkot closed on conversion charge

Closure order was issued to St. Paul higher primary School in Ilkal near Hungund in Bagalkot district

Education Department officials closed St. Paul higher primary School in Ilkal near Hungund in Bagalkot district on the charge of ‘trying to convert students and their parents’.

The Block Education Officer issued the order on December 30 following a visit to the school and a complaint by some right-wing organisations.

He said that the school was being closed indefinitely for ‘celebrating Christmas in violation of rules’. However, he did not cite the rules in the order. “You have served meat in the classrooms during Christmas celebrations on December 25. This has led to embarrassment to the public and the department. You have to keep the school closed till further orders. Legal action will be taken if you reopen the school without permission,” he said.

Earlier, Pradeep Amarannanavar, convenor of ‘pro-Hindu organisations’, gave a complaint to tahsildar K. Rathna that the school was trying convert the students and parents. “The management invited students and parents to school on Christmas Day and offered lunch with meat, wine and ‘Satya Veda’, a Kannada translation of the Bible. This is nothing but an attempt to convert Hindus into Christianity by allurement and force,” he claimed.

Principal Silvia D Marck, school management committee members Jackson D Marck and Umesh Nayak Harapanahalli have been named in the complaint.

“Since inception of the schools, these persons have been converting members of poor and backward communities like Banjara, Ambiger and other groups. They are insulting Hindu gods and converting vulnerable groups. Once they are converted, they force the converted persons to throw out statues and images of Hindu gods from their homes. This is against the law. What is more, the school’s licence is getting renewed annually, as the school management bribes some officials of the education department. The authorities should close down the school and cancel its licence,” according to the complaint.

Following the complaint, Education Department’s Block Resource Coordinator I.M. Angadi inspected the school and submitted a report. The BEO acted on the report and issued the order for closure.

Jackson D Marc told journalists in Ilkal that the allegations were baseless.

“We are not converting anyone. First of all, the school is not run by Christian missionaries. It is run by some residents of Ilkal. The school is run in a rented premises. The school committee includes members of all faiths. The school has students of all religions. The lunch was not held in the school,” he said.

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