MUMBAI, India – A chapel at a Christian college was vandalized in India’s capital on Friday, and the national student union has said it is an attempt to “polarize” the community.
St. Stephen’s College in Delhi was established in 1881 by the Anglican Church and has educated several members of the governing elite of South Asia, including presidents of both India and Pakistan. It is now a constituent college of the University of Delhi.
On Friday, the door to the school’s chapel had the words “Mandir yahi banega” [the temple will be built here] written on it, while a cross on the campus has the words “I am going to hell.”
“Both of the slogans show the utterly disgusting mentality of the person or persons involved in such defacement of structures inside the college premises,” the National Students’ Union of India said in a statement.
“They have tried to polarize the student community on the basis of religion and fake nationalism several times but have failed on every attempt,” the statement continued.
Hindu nationalist associations have targeted Christian schools in the past, demanding they allow Hindu worship in their chapels.
RELATED: Another school in India under threat by Hindu nationalists
Since 2014, India has been ruled by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has strong links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militant Hindu nationalist organization.
Incidents of harassment against the small Christian minority have increased over the past few months, with various Christians being detained or arrested for “attempted conversion,” and places of worship being vandalized.
“Though the incident [at St. Stephen’s] is shocking, looking around at the way hate against minorities is encouraged by the powers that be, I am not surprised,” said Father Dominic Emmanuel, the former spokesperson for the Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi.
“Their aim of making India a nation for Hindus only requires these kinds of actions. The sad thing is that many of our institutions, both educational and otherwise, have not woken up to this fact,” he told Crux.
“I have appealed to some major superiors that it is high time they start teaching the students clearly about the dangers of such a move and don’t wait till the incidents land on your doorsteps. It is still not late,” Emmanuel said.
However, the former principal of St. Stephens said not to conflate the acts of a “demented soul” with “communal terrorists.”
Writing in the Daily O – an online opinion journal – the Rev. Valson Thampu, who headed the college from 2008-2016, said “Pranks are pranks.”
“Should we really describe this as vandalism’? It really isn’t. The cross on which the person concerned wrote ‘I am going to hell’ is about 50 meters from the chapel door. Now conflate the graffiti on the door of the chapel and the inscription on the cross,” Thampu wrote.
“The demented soul, who prophesizes the conversion of the chapel into a temple, is on his right royal way to hell, within the next 50 meters. Come on, have a heart for this guy!”