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Bombay churches close in protest after priest attacked

Nearly 200 Catholic schools and colleges in Bombay and the neighbouring Thane district of western India closed on Monday to protest at an attack last week on a Catholic priest.

The closure of Christian educational institutions was in response to a call made by the Archbishop of Bombay, Ivan Dias, who described the attack on the priest as senseless and barbaric.

In some Catholic schools, students returned home after offering prayers of atonement. Catholic employees also wore black badges to their offices as a mark of protest.

The police have arrested 15 members of a hardline Hindu group, Bajrang Dal, in connection with the attack.

Bajrang Dal activists are alleged to have attacked the priest, Oscar Mendonza, in Thane district last week.

They demand an apology from him for the murder of some Hindu activists in the north-eastern state of Tripura nearly two years ago - allegedly by Christians.

When the priest refused, he was beaten up and the church vandalised.

This is the latest in a series of anti-Christian violence by ultra-nationalist Hindu groups in recent years. Its occurrence in a big city such as Bombay is believed to be a cause for concern for the authorities.