By Jessy Joseph
New Delhi, March 5, 2020: A court in Karnataka, southern India, on March 5 denied bail to the public relations officer of a Catholic hospital arrested for hurting Hindu religious sentiments.
The police arrested Simon George, the PRO of Sanjo Hospital in Mandya town, three days ago.
“The court has not given the reasons for denying bail,” Father Josekutty Kalayil, who takes care of the legal matters and spiritual needs of the hospital, told Matters India over phone on March 5.
Earlier, the priest had expressed confidence that they would get bail for George saying the allegations against him were baseless.
The 100-bed, which has received reviews such as “well maintained hospital at affordable price,” is managed by the Medical Sisters of St Joseph, a Syro-Malabar congregation based in Kothamangalam, Kerala.
Kalayil said the case was connected with the admission of an elderly person with high blood pressure on March 1. The next day, as he was about to be discharged the man asked George, who visited the room as part of his routine job, why a copy of the Bible was kept there.
George answered that it was Christians’ holy book and those interested could read it.
The man called his son, a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the umbrella body of Hindu rightwing groups, who came to the hospital immediately with some 20 people. They accused the hospital administrator of religious conversion.
More people joined the group, who entered the PRO’s room and thrashed him. The attackers also informed the police who came and took George into custody. The police then registered a case against him accusing him of attempts to convert, and hurting religious sentiments. A court then sent George to jail.
Father Kalayil says the attack was planned. “Otherwise they would not have managed to gather around 70 people in such a short time.”
Karnataka state is now ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian people’s party).
Mandya is some 100 km southwest of Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka state, and the diocese with the same is under the Syro-Malabar Church.
Father Kalayil said the attackers have also accused hospital administrator Sister Nirmal Jose of denigrating the Hindu deities and enticing patients to convert to Christianity.
The priest is a member of Missionaries of St Thomas, who have nurtured the diocese since 1978.
Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath, who took over as the Mandya bishop six months ago, termed as unfortunate the latest incident in the Sanjo Hospital.
He told Matters India on March 5 that he has visited a few times the hospital, which is 12 km from the bishop’s house. The latest was to open a dialysis ward.
He said he was impressed by the hospital’s services and its “wonderful relation” with the local people.
The prelate says a lone incident of attack should not be seen as a break in the hospital’s relation with the local people. “We are maintaining the relationship and continue our services to the local community,” he added.
According to Bishop Adayanthrath the hospital is situated in a place where lots of snakebite cases occur. “So the people love this hospital and appreciate the wonderful care and concern given by the sisters,” he added.
The prelate also said as normalcy has returned, the hospital conducts its services “very well.”
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