The Bishop of Amritsar has called on the President of India Pratibha Devisingh Patil to protect Christians in northern India after a mob burned down the oldest school in Kashmir and also attacked other Christian institutions.
The Church of North India's Rt Revd Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy, wrote that it was “with a heavy heart” that he informed the President of the complete destruction of the Tungmarg Tyndale Biscoe branch school that provided “quality education to five hundred fifty children from one hundred fifty villages around Tangmarg.”
The school, managed by the Diocese of Amritsar, had 27 staff and 16 support staff and had been founded in 1996 by Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson School Educational Society to cater for the economically deprived sectors of the community.
The whole three-storey wooden structure with 26 classrooms, computer labs and a library containing, among other books, copies of the Quran was completely destroyed on Monday after being set on fire by a large mob that marched on the school after hearing reports of a man desecrating the Quran in America. None of the staff were injured; they all managed to escape the blaze.
“I am pained to state that though the local authorities were informed about a possible attack… no protection was provided,” said Bishop Samantaroy in his message to the President. “As a result of it the whole building was burnt to ashes incurring a huge loss of property and causing irreparable damage to the sentiments of the Christian Community.
“You are aware that the Christians in the State of Jammu and Kashmir are a tiny minority who always live and serve under stressful and sometimes threatening situations. The present situation has made the Christians in Jammu and Kashmir feel very insecure.”
The school’s headmaster Rahinder Kaul expressed his sorrow at the destruction of the school: “As word spread, my phone hasn't stopped ringing, with students, parents, staff members, friends and well-wishers all expressing their shock and disbelief - many, many students broke down completely while talking to me – theirs is by far the biggest loss.
He added, “Today the school, the pride of the children who studied here and the staff who have put everything into the school, is a heap of ashes. I cannot express my own shock and sense of loss.”
Other Christian institutions also came under attack including the Roman Catholic Good Shepherd High School at Pulwama that was also set on fire and the Church of North India hospital at Anantnag was stormed by protestors, two of whom were shot and killed by security forces.