11 Tribal Girls Killed In India As Hostel Collapses

Sunday, January 28, 2007

By BosNewsLife News Center

NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- Christian officials on Saturday, January 27, urged the Hindu-led government of India's Gujarat state to end what they regard as the persecution of Christian aid workers after at least 11 impoverished Tribal girls died when the their residential school collapsed.

'Adarsh Nivasi Shala,' a government hostel for tribal girls in Tichakpura village, about 100 kilometers (62.5 miles) from the port city of Surat, collapsed Friday, January 25, "at 6.30pm [local time] instantly killing 11 tribal girls and trapping 14 poor Tribal children," representatives of the Gloval Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), a major Christian aid and advocacy group, told BosNewsLife.

At least 14 others, all Tribal girls, were receiving treatment for various injuries at a hospital in neighboring town of Vyara, Surat District Collector Vatsala Vasudev said. Most of the estimated 330 girls studying in the hostel were reportedly accounted for, but till the early morning hours resue workers still searched for missing children.

The building was constructed by the government to cater to the education of Tribal girls living in this predominantly tribal area, GCIC investigators said. People living in the vicinity and construction workers from nearby sites were the first to come to the rescue of the trapped students, before district authorities could reach the spot, according to Indian Christians.


GCIC National President Sajan George told BosNewsLife that the accident underscored his group's concern that the Hindu-led government makes it difficult for experienced Christian professionals, including aid workers and missionaries, to help tribal people and others deemed 'out-castes' in India's ancient system of Hinduism.

"While my heartfelt sympathy goes out to the bereaved families of these Tribals who have lost their beloved daughters in this hostel-building collapse, my anger seethes against the state administrative machinery," he said.

"Christian missionaries who work tirelessly for the poor tribals in Gujarat are always targeted by the pro-Hinduvta [Hindu nationalist] government as Christian social welfare and educational programs for the Tribal and Dalits are viewed with suspicion. [They] are often being perceived by the bigots as allurement or enticement for conversion to Christianity," George added.


He recalled that last year the government amended "the draconian" anti-conversion law which he said is "making the social and welfare programs of the Christians as allurement for conversion."

Tragically, he said, "this building was built by the government not too long ago and collapsed,
causing the death of innocent and poor tribal girls." Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi apparently ordered an inquiry into the incident, but parents of the victims, all girl students, already blamed the hostel authorities for the incident.

Parents reportedly said local authorities did not heed the warnings by several students who repeatedly complained of the building structure being weak.

GCIC's George said his group was praying for the victims and their relatives. He urged the Gujarat government to "wake up and acknowledge" the professional work of and contributions of "the Christian missionaries in the welfare and development of the Tribals," and prevent similar accidents in the future. Christins comprise below three percent of India's predominantly Hindu population of 1.1 billion people. (With BosNewsife reports and BosNewsife Research).

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