Amit Shah promises action as row over nuns’ harassment in UP intensifies
Union home minister Amit Shah on Wednesday assured action in the alleged attack on nuns by a group of Bajrang Dal activists on a train in Uttar Pradesh’s Jhansi soon after Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that such incidents tarnish the image of the nation.
Shah was speaking at a poll rally in Kochi ahead of the April 6 state elections.
“Those involved in the Jhansi nuns’ harassment incident will be brought before the law. I want to assure the people of Kerala that the culprits behind this incident will be brought to justice at the earliest,” he said.
In a detailed statement on Tuesday, the church media commission said that the nuns, from a congregation of Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church, and a group of girls were on their way from Delhi to Odisha in a train on March 19 for Easter celebrations when they were confronted by the Bajrang Dal activists in Jhansi. The church said that the nuns were verbally abused and activists tried to attack the girls, whom they believed, were being taken away for religious conversion.
While the Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference (KCBC) and Syro-Malabar Church have sought action against the alleged attackers, Vijayan in a letter to Shah sought strict action against those “who disrupt and impair the freedom of individual rights” guaranteed by the Constitution.
The CM said the nuns and the postulants were forcefully removed from the train by the police following a complaint from the Bajrang Dal activists alleging that the two girls were being taken for forceful religious conversion.
“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.
What happened in Uttar Pradesh should not have happened in the country and it is a “very serious matter,” the CM said, attacking the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in UP.
“Violence in the name of religion is on the rise in many parts of our country. Violence against women and marginalized groups are on the rise…Uttar Pradesh is notorious for such matters. All such illegal activities are taking place under the ruling BJP government there. It should also be taken seriously that all this is happening on an uncontrolled scale,” Vijayan said.
The incident occurred at a time when the BJP is wooing Christian minorities who form 16% of the votebank to get a foothold in the central Travancore area.
At the rally in Kochi, Shah accused Vijayan of having close links with the prime accused in the gold smuggling case.
“Who appointed the principal secretary who was arrested in money laundering and smuggling cases? Why was he sacked later? The CM can’t wash away his hands like this. Did the secretary and CM travel abroad with the main accused or not,” Shah said.
Without naming the prime accused in the case, Swapna Suresh and M Sivasankar, who were arrested by central agencies in connection with case, the Union minister asked, “Why did the accused woman come to the CM’s residence regularly? Who appointed her in a key post with ₹3 lakh salary? Did the accused make foreign trips with state fund with the permission of the state government.”
Justifying the investigation by central agencies in the case, he said if any scandal took place in the country, it will be probed by the Indian agencies and not those from the UN.
Last week, the state government booked officials of the Enforcement Directorate for allegedly trying to implicate the CM in the gold smuggling case.
Shah said the people of the state see BJP as an alternative for the opposition UDF and ruling LDF.
Addressing a road show in Tripunithara on the outskirts of Kochi, Shah said also targeted the LDF government for its handling of the Sabarimala temple issue in 2018.
“It is not easy for believers to forget the way the government trampled their customs and jailed thousands of them. The government is answerable to faithful for its various criminal acts at the holy shrine,” he said.
During the three-month long annual pilgrimage season in 2018, the Kerala witnessed large-scale violence when the state government tried to enforce the Supreme Court verdict annulling a decades-old bar on the entry of women of child-bearing age to the Sabarimala temple. Nearly a dozen women in the age group of 10-50 were stopped from entering the temple.
“It is time to bring a change in Kerala. Senior bureaucrats such as E Sreedharan are also joining the BJP because they know only the BJP can help develop Kerala further under the leadership of PM Modi. LDF-UDF cannot,” he said.
The senior BJP leader also hit out Congress’s Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi, calling his frequent visits to the state “picnic trips”. “In Kerala he talks against left but in West Bengal both are thick friends and fighting elections together. Congress has no qualms in aligning with the Muslim League in Kerala and Shiv Sena in Maharashtra,” he said.
(With Agency inputs)