Hindu Radicals Threaten Catholic Nuns In Northern India
By Jessy Joseph
New Delhi: A group of Hindu radicals has forced Catholic nuns out of a train after accusing them of indulging in religious conversion.
Two members of the Sacred Heart congregation were on March 19 traveling to Odisha from New Delhi with two postulants when some activists of the Bajrang Dal (party of the stout and strong) confronted them at Jhansi town in Uttar Pradesh.
The postulants were going home for Easter holidays and the nuns accompanied them for safety. The nuns drew the radicals’ attention with their religious dress. The candidates were in salwar suit, typical Indian dress for women.
The nuns called their provincial house in New Delhi when the men started chanting Jai Shriram (Hail Lord Ram) and Jai Hanuman (Hail Hanuman, a Hindu deity).
Sister Usha Maria, the provincial, told Matters India March 22 that her nuns narrated their train ordeal.
“The men in their compartment blamed the nuns for forcing the postulants to religious conversion. The 19-year-old students repeatedly told them that they are Christians and they want to become nuns. They showed their identity proof, but the radicals wouldn’t leave the sisters,” Sister Maria explained.
The police, who came to scene, forced the nuns to get down at the Jhansi railway station. “When they got down more than 150 radicals surrounded the sisters, shouting slogans and hailing Hindu Gods,” the provincial said.
The nuns were taken to the police station and the mob followed them shouting Jai Shrira. “But a heavy rain disbursed the shouting crowd outside the police station,” said the provincial.
“We were very much worried about their safety and kept on calling them, but the police and crowd wouldn’t allow the nuns to attend the calls,” Sister Maria added.
Through a lawyer priest the provincial team informed the Lucknow Inspector General of Police and contacted the Jhansi Bishop’s House.
“Priests from the Jhansi Bishop’s house rushed to the police station and with the help of Inspector General and other high official we could release our sisters from police custody,” the provincial said.
The sisters were then taken to Jhansi Bishop’s house. The nuns resumed their journey on March 21 in civil dress along with police protection.
“The timely intervention of the Jhansi Bishop’s house helped our young nuns otherwise they would have been behind the bars,” Sister Usha said.
“Christians have been facing regular attacks recently in Uttar Pradesh and this is the latest,” Sister Maria said. According to her, such trends are “very dangerous” for a secular country like India.
“We need to be careful and vigilant to address planned attacks against us,” she added.
Similar incidents have occurred in the neighboring state of Madhya Pradesh.
Both Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, currently ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, have enacted stringent anti-conversion laws.
Sister Bina Joseph of the Carmelite Sisters of St Teresa, another Kerala-based congregation, and four tribal girls were on June 13, 2017, forced out of a train and detained at Satna station.
Some right wing Hindu groups accused the nun of indulging in illegal religious conversion.
The group was traveling to Bhopal, the Madhya Pradesh state capital, from Jharkhand, eastern India.
“As our train reached the station, police personnel forced us out and then detained saying the girls were being taken for religious conversion,” Sister Joseph had told Matters India over phone from the police station.
The nun and the girls were released after 12 hour.
Two days later on June 15, 2017, the Government Railway Police (GRP) registered a case of abduction against the Sister Joseph.
That was the third such incident in less than one month in Madhya Pradesh.
On May 21, 2017, police detained 60 tribal children from Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh going to Nagpur for a summer camp at Ratlam railway station following a fake complaint of religious conversion from right wing activists and registered a case against nine Christians who accompanied them. They were released later after their parents denied the allegation.
A day later, local police stopped 11 tribal children from Alirajpur district who were also on their way to the Nagpur camp and arrested two persons guiding them.
The two were later sent to jail, after a case was registered under relevant sections of MP Freedom of Religion Act and Indian Penal Code.
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