Attack on Nuns in UP: Shah Assures Action, Gandhi Lashes Out

Right-wing goons boarded the train from Rishikesh in Uttarakhand and accused the nuns of forceful conversion.

4 min read
Union Home Minister Amit Shah (left) Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan (right)

In another case of religious intolerance, a video has surfaced online where two Catholic nuns and two postulants are being hounded by right-wing goons allegedly belonging to Bajrang Dal, who alleged that the nuns were forcefully converting the two girls into Christianity.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday, 24 March, promised action will be taken and said, “Those involved in the Jhansi nuns' harassment incident will be brought before the law," according to PTI.

Shah’s assurance came after Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to him on the harassment of nuns in Uttar Pradesh, calling it “shocking” and said that the “fundamental rights” of Indian citizens have been violated.

"You would agree with me that such incidents tarnish the image of the nation and its ancient tradition of religious tolerance and practice. Such incidents require utmost condemnation by the Union government," Vijayan said in the letter.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also condemned the incident, saying that the attack was aimed at crushing the country’s minorities. He also said that it is time for the nation to takes corrective steps to defeat such forces.


What Exactly Happened?

The two nuns and two postulants were travelling from New Delhi to Rourkela in Odisha on 19 March. The nuns and postulants belong to the Sacred Heart convent under the Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church. A ruckus was created by the Bajrang Dal members as the train reached Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh.

The two nuns were accompanying the postulants to their first trip home in Odisha since they had recently joined the Sacred Hearts Congregation of the Delhi Province. The right-wing goons had boarded the train from Rishikesh in Uttarakhand and accused the nuns of forceful conversion.

In the video, the men, accompanied by police, can be seen interrogating the postulants and forcing them to show their Aadhaar cards.

The postulants repeated that they were born Christians and were training to become nuns. However, the ‘activists’ refused to believe it. When the train reached Jhansi railway station, all-male police detained the four women and questioned them for five hours till 11 pm at night.

As per Syro-Malabar Church’s statement, the four women were let go only after top officials verified their information. They were then transferred to the Jhansi Bishop’s House, after which they resumed their journey on 21 March, with the Railway Police Protection.

Another video circulated on social media shows the women being questioned by the Railway Protection Force and others.

What Did the Police Say?

While Vijayan’s letter and the statement from the Church have said that the goons belonged to the Bajrang Dal, a statement issued by the police said that they were members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

Naeem Khan Mansuri, the Superintendent of Railway Police in Jhansi in a detailed statement said: "There were some members of the ABVP who were returning from a training camp in Rishikesh on board the Utkal express to Jhansi.

"Four Christian ladies were travelling on the same train from Hazrat Nizamuddin in Delhi to Rourkela in Odisha. Two of them were nuns and two were under training. These members of the ABVP suspected that these two nuns were taking the other two women for conversion because the nuns were speaking to the other ladies,” the statement said, according to IANS.

"They informed the Railway Protection Force that then informed the railway police. These ABVP members also gave a written complaint about conversion. I reached the spot and made inquiries. These inquiries revealed that the two other women were from Odisha's Rourkela and were under training.,” Mansuri said.

“We checked their certificates and both had 2003 baptism certificates and this proved both women by birth were Christian and that no conversion was involved. After this we sent all four women onwards to their destination in Odisha.”
Naeem Khan Mansuri

The Government Railway Police (GRP), Jhansi said that upon receiving information that two nuns were travelling with two other postulents in B-2 coach of Utkal Express with an intention of religious conversion, the concerned were stopped at Jhansi railway station by the complainants along with the Railway Protection Force and were then taken to Government Railway Police, Jhansi for investigation.

According to the GRP statement, upon investigation, the allegations were found out to be false. Due to the mental trauma and harassment caused to all the four women because of the false allegations, the case has been handed over to the Government Railway Police and a legal investigation into the matter is underway, the police said.

Incident Invites Condemnation

On Monday, the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala condemned the incident. They alleged that the attack was planned as more than 100 Bajrang Dal workers gathered in a short span of time.

Condemning the incident, CM Pinarayi Vijayan slammed the police for taking the nuns into custody without the presence of any women police officers. He also said that such incidents tarnish the image of religious harmony of the country.

Congress leader Ramesh Chennitha alleged that this shows how insecure secularism is under the BJP government in India. He also sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking an inquiry into the case.

BJP general secretary George Kurian wrote a letter to Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath seeking an inquiry into the matter and demanding punishment for the “overzealous individuals”. In his letter Kurian condemned the incident and described the details of the matter. However, he did not mention Bajrang Dal in his letter.

In a statement, the CPI(M) state secretariat said that assaults against religious minorities and Dalits in many north Indian states were increasing. It added that the police also encourage the assaulters and that Constitutional rights were breached in such incidents, reported The News Minute.

The Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Council (KCBC) also condemned the incident, demanding that legal action be taken against the attackers. They also criticised the police for taking the nuns into custody based on the fake allegations made by the attackers and also said that the nuns were framed in a false case of forcible religious conversion.

“Despite confirming that the allegations were false after checking the ID cards and documents provided by the nuns, the police took them into custody without the presence of women police officers. Detailed investigation must be initiated into the incident by national human rights and women commissions,” read the statement.

(With inputs from The News Minute, IANS, PTI and The New Indian Express, The Times of India)

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