MUMBAI, India – In the South India state of Telangana on April 15, management at Mother Teresa School stopped a student who was wearing Hindu religious attire from taking an examination. The school is run by the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (MCBS) in Adilabad Diocese.

The student was wearing an outfit associated with Hanuman Deeksha, a Hindu religious observance that usually lasts 41 days before a final ceremony at a temple. The Catholic school has a school uniform, and does not allow students to wear other attire.

The Mother Teresa School management did not allow the student to enter the examination hall wearing saffron attire and beads often worn during the Hindu festivities. The boy’s parents were informed about the school clothing rules.

After the boy wasn’t allowed in the hall, parents of students, Hindu leaders, and other devotees arrived at the school and protested against the management. The mob wore saffron shirts and shawls around their neck, and they barged into the school breaking glass windows and flower pots while chanting “Jai Shri Ram” (hail lord Ram) and pelted stones on the statue of St. Mother Teresa at the main gates. They then staged a sit-in inside the school premises.

The mob also attacked Blessed Sacrament Father Jaimon Joseph, the school manager.

“Some of them slapped and threw punches at me while others attacked me from behind,” the priest told UCA News on April 17.

The members of the mob accused the school management of not permitting Hindu students to wear their religious costumes, an allegation that was described as misleading.

“The school principal found a few students attending classes wearing religious dress and questioned them,” Joseph said.

They informed him that it was part of a 21-day special religious observance, the priest added. The principal said he merely asked them to bring their parents to school to know more.

The school management has lodged a complaint with local police, but no arrests have been made yet. Instead, the police have gone ahead and registered a case against the school management for hurting religious sentiments.

The student’s father Gorre Thirupathi filed the complaint.

“The teachers said that my son and two others were not allowed to school and needed the principal’s permission. The principal and correspondence hurt Hindu sentiments and their actions are increasing the hostility between Hindus and Christians,” he told the police.

According to the 2011 census, Hindus form 85 percent of the Telangana’s population. Muslims form just over 12 percent and Christians are a mere 1.3 percent.

Father Anthony Thumma told Crux he had seen the video of the incident, calling it “a difficult situation.”

Thumma is National Secretary of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) Office for Dialogue and Desk for Ecumenism at CBCI Center in New Delhi.

“We need to respect all religious traditions and their sentiments. We are also concerned about the school discipline,” he said.

“In the video, the principal says that the students were told to wear the mala over the uniform. However, we need not give harsh punishment for such mistakes,” Thumma added.

“The Education Apostolate is a service that the Church renders as part of Jesus’ command of loving the neighbors and especially the poor. It is a way to inculcate the values of the Gospel and thus sow the seeds of the Kingdom of God,” he said.