Tuesday, September 6, 2011
CHURCH PROPERTY FIGHT TURNS VIOLENT IN INDIA
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
A battle for control over a church school in the Diocese of Lucknow turned violent last week after three bombs were tossed at the front gate of the Girls High School of Allahabad in North India.
The fight has prompted the Bishop in Lucknow, the Rt Rev Morris Dan to seek police protection against supporters of former headmaster CV Innes.
Founded by the East India Company in 1822 to educate British and Anglo-Indian children of the company’s servants, the Boys High School and Colleges (BHS) and Girls High School and Colleges (GHS) in Allahabad were established at their present site in 1861 and run by missionaries of the Church of England.
The dispute arose between the Bishop and the former headmaster after Mr Innes attempted to change the school’s bylaws to remove the Bishop as head of the schools. The dispute was brought to the courts and the Allahabad Supreme Court ruled last month the attempt to oust the Bishop was unlawful and confirmed the Bishop’s nominee, Mr David Luke, as the new headmaster.
On 5 July three bombs were tossed against the wall of the girl’s school, demolishing the gate and front entrance, while police reported that a crowd of approximately 200 people attempted to force their way into the school, allegedly to oust Mr Luke as headmaster.
The Indian Express reported that the situation was defused after senior police and administration officials responded to the riot with armed police.
Speaking to the press after the riot, Bishop Dan charged his predecessor, Bishop AR Stephen with colluding with Mr Innes to take control of the school. While the resort to violence in Allahabad was unusual, disputes over the control and ownership of church schools in India are common, as they provide a sizeable source of income for the Church.
Church schools also are a source of illegal income anti-corruption activists have charged, claiming that bribes are often paid for places in India’s premier private schools — of which the majority are affiliated with the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches.