WhatsApp Messages Fuel Attack on Christian School in Telangana: Fact-Finding Committee Exposes Truth

An independent investigation in Telangana has uncovered the origins of WhatsApp messages that sparked the violent attack on a Christian school in Luxettipet of Kannepalli village in Mancherial district on April 16. The messages, which circulated false information regarding the school’s alleged obstruction of Hindu rituals, triggered an angry mob of about 300 men to descend upon the Mother Teresa English Medium School. The texts claimed that the school’s Catholic management had forced students to remove their saffron attire worn as part of Hanuman Deeksha, a 41-day ritual observed before visiting a temple.

Led by independent social activists Khalida Parveen, Sarah Mathews, Kaneez Fathima, and SQ Masood, the fact-finding committee revealed that the false information spread through WhatsApp led to misconceptions about the school’s handling of students observing Hanuman Deeksha. Contrary to the rumors, the committee found no evidence of students being prevented from writing exams or have their religious items forcibly removed. The reports showed that the school had only requested students to inform them if they intended to continue wearing the saffron attire as part of the ritual.

One of the main instigators behind the attack was identified as a parent of a former student who had been expelled from the school for misconduct. This former student, along with the parent, was part of the mob that vandalized the school. The report emphasized that the school management had not been informed in advance of the students observing Hanuman Deeksha, leading to confusion that escalated into the violent attack.

The mob assault on the school principal, Jaimon Joseph, included forcing him to wear saffron attire, applying vermilion on him, and vandalizing school property. The principal was also coerced into issuing a public apology through a microphone while chanting “Jai Shri Ram.” The mob’s violence extended to the neighboring area, where they closed down Muslim-owned meat shops.

Authorities responded by registering FIRs against the school management and the mob under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. The fact-finding committee called for the withdrawal of the FIR against the school management, stating that there was no evidence to support the attackers’ claims. They further demanded the immediate arrest of the attackers and compensation for damages caused to the school. Despite the violent incident, the community largely expressed support for the school management, with most parents believing the attack was unjustified.