Nuns’ detention in UP fans Kerala poll furore

Published on Mar 24, 2021 12:27 AM IST

Thiruvananthapuram: The brief detention of a group of nuns by Government Railway Police (GRP) following complaints of alleged forced conversion by Bajrang Dal activists in Uttar Pradesh’s Jhansi district has generated a political firestorm in Kerala ahead of the crucial assembly elections next month

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Thiruvananthapuram: The brief detention of a group of nuns by Government Railway Police (GRP) following complaints of alleged forced conversion by Bajrang Dal activists in Uttar Pradesh’s Jhansi district has generated a political firestorm in Kerala ahead of the crucial assembly elections next month.

The nuns’ congregation belongs to Syro-Malabar Church which is based in Kerala.

While the Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference (KCBC) and Syro-Malabar Church have sought action against the activists, opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala rushed a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding immediate action in the case.

The incident occurred at a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is wooing Christian minorities who form 16 per cent of the votebank to get a foothold in the central Travancore area.

In a detailed statement, the church media commission said that the nuns 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 claimed that the nuns were verbally abused and activists tried to attack the girls, whom they believed, were being taken away for religious conversion.

“They did not believe nuns’ words that all were born Christians and continued to question them. Later, the nuns were taken into police custody at Jhansi after they alerted the railway police. They were threatened and terrorised by the right wing workers,” Father Jerry Joseph, spokesperson of the commission, said. He added that the nuns were released after three hours of questioning and transferred to the Bishop’s House in Jhansi.

“It was a terrifying incident. They were not even considerate towards the women. Around 150 Bajrang Dal activists surrounded us and behaved as though we were criminals,” one of the nuns said, preferring anonymity.

“It is totally unacceptable. Thousands of nuns and priests are engaged in humanitarian activities across the country. We want a high-level intervention,” KCBC said.

Sunil Singh, SHO and GRP, Jhansi, said the nuns and girls were deboarded after the activists suspected that the girls were being taken away for religious conversion. “The police investigated and found no such thing. The nuns and students were later sent with a reverend,” he said.

The leaders from the church also plan to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who is arriving in the state on Wednesday for campaigning, in this regard.

In his letter to Modi, Chennithala said: “It is a serious incident. Poor nuns were terrorised and attacked. The government will have to ensure speedy justice to them.”

The ruling CPI(M) also condemned the incident. “It exposes intolerance towards minority communities in north India,” the party said in a statement.

The state BJP sent a letter to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on the matter.

“The party condemns the incident. It seems the police also took hasty action without verifying the facts. We want action against the perpetrators and police officials who detained the nuns,” party vice president George Kurian said in his letter.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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