India: police leave Catholic hospital separated from power supply after attack

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The Pushpa Mission Hospital has been in church possession for 57 years (World Watch Monitor)
The Pushpa Mission Hospital has been in church possession for 57 years (World Watch Monitor)
The Pushpa Mission Hospital has been in church possession for 57 years (World Watch Monitor)

Police guarding a Catholic hospital in central India that was attacked by a Hindu nationalist mob are restricting staff access to its emergency generator.

The last members of the 100-strong mob that attacked Pushpa Mission Hospital in Ujjain city, Madhya Pradesh, left the site following a 16 March court order that there should be no “obstruction” to the functioning of the hospital.

However the local vicar-general expressed disappointment that government officials have not knocked down a brick wall hastily built by the attackers, which separates the hospital from its generator, or removed the iron fencing they erected that stretches four metres into the road.

Government officials restored the hospital’s water and electricity supply and removed a small part of the wire fencing some five days after the court order was issued.

The hospital, which serves patients of any creed, was attacked by around 100 people armed with weapons and two bulldozers on 12 March. Claiming they had a court order to “reclaim” a piece of land on the roadside of the hospital, they broke down a section of hospital wall nearly 50 metres long, damaged the electrical supply and generator unit, and disconnected the hospital’s water supply. The mob was led by Gagan Singh, personal secretary of Chintamani Malviya, an MP for the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP party.

Because the new wall is still standing, staff at the hospital are being forced to access its emergency generator not through its own premises but via the road, and only with permission from the police, despite the fact that the electricity may go off any time without notice, endangering patients’ lives.

“We have no option but to enter from the road, seek permission from the police to operate the emergency generator,” Fr. Sebastian Pullat, vicar-general of Ujjain diocese, told World Watch Monitor yesterday (22 March).

He added: “[The] court gave clear direction that there should be no obstruction to the functioning of the hospital. But we do not want to create tension by breaking [down] the new wall.”

However, he expressed “dismay” that no effort has been made by the government to break down the wall or remove most of the five-metre wide iron fencing the attackers erected.

The case was heard again on Wednesday (21 March) and adjourned. Fr. ​Pullat said the hospital management filed another case today (23 March). ​

“We have only very limited options. We have to count on the court to get justice done,” he added. He said the Church found itself “helpless” in states where ruling Hindu nationalists control the administrative system. Police officers failed to arrive during the 12 March attack, despite church authorities telephoning them and top government officials.

Sachin Atulkar, Ujjain’s police chief, acknowledged to World Watch Monitor that there was “inconsistency” in the court order claimed by the mob. Asked to explain the police’s inaction, he replied that the case was still “under appeal”.

The Bishop of Ujjain, Sebastian Vadakkel, said the hospital complex has been in possession of the Catholic Church for 57 years, without any complaint, and that the claim to a tiny piece of roadside was first raised in 2015 – “by manipulating government land records”.

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