Authorities seized 12 tearful, fatherless children from a Christian ministry in eastern India last month after local officials demolished the ministry’s school and hostel, sources said.

After Hindu extremists persuaded the district collector to demolish the hostel and school serving 250 students, child protection personnel and police on May 21 seized the six orphans and six other children whose fathers were killed by communist guerrillas known as Naxalites, said Vijay Kumar Pusuru, who founded the school near the village of Lichapeta in Odisha state. The children and Pusuru’s family were living under a tree due to the destruction of their home along with the hostel on May 13. The 44-year-old Pusuru said the school, about 40 miles south of Malkangiri in the forests of Malkangiri District, is the only one in a radius of 62 miles (100 kilometers) providing English-language education.

When Commandant Singh went to meet the district collector to plead for Pusuru’s case, he was told that since Pusuru is a Christian, authorities will not let him run a school in the area, Pusuru said. Telling Pusuru that only God can help him, the discouraged commandant said authorities had destroyed an established school that was a blessing to the community. He added that he was sad that officials would not object to a liquor store on the land but have destroyed a school.