New Delhi: Attempts are reported to have been made to file cases against a few nuns for attempted religious conversion. The nuns were subjected to attacks by Sangh Parivar workers in UP. The police and Bajrang volunteers involved in the incident have been said to make an attempt to book them under the religious conversion prevention law enacted by the Yogi Adityanath government in UP.
The four nuns from the Delhi province of the Sacred Heart congregation were attacked during their train journey from Nizamuddin station in Delhi to Rourkela in Odisha. The incident happened when the train reached Jhansi station at about 6.30 pm.
The Syro-Malabar Church of Kerala condemned the move to frame the nuns in fake charges. The church said that there was clear planning behind this and the violent incidents involving communal extremists, endangering the life and right to travel of nuns, who are engaged in selfless service in north Indian states, has to be addressed seriously.
The Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC) remarked that the incident challenged the civic rights of citizens and demanded that the National Human Rights Commission and Women's Commission should urgently intervene in the matter.
It was on the 19th of this month that four nuns, including one from Kerala, were followed by Bajrang Dal men on board and attacked. The nuns were forced to change their clothes to avoid the habit and headgear they wear. The Bajrang Dal workers, who were returning from a pilgrimage, were deliberately making a ruckus with them. They alleged that the two postulants among them were being taken for religious conversion. The Bajrang Dal men refused to take at face value their affirmation that they were both Christians by birth.
One of the four nuns, Usha Maria told 'Madhyamam' that the Bajrang Dal volunteers, who had boarded the same train as theirs at Nizamuddin, were seen coming towards them. Two young nuns were accompanying the two other 19-year old postulants hailing from Odisha to their native place. Two of them were wearing normal clothes and the other two the church attire. During their journey in a Third A/c coach, when the train was approaching Jhansi, the Bajrang Dal workers started creating an issue under no provocation.
They created a furore alleging that two women were being taken for conversion. When they repeated the allegation to create an issue, one of the nuns called the provincial house in Delhi and apprised them of the situation and the latter became anxious especially with the noise heard over the phone. But that also triggered the Banrajg Dal men intensifying their attempt to provoke, and they started questioning the Christian faith and shouting slogans of Jai Shriram, and Jai Hanuman. They were heard repeatedly asserting to the postulants that they were not Christians and were being led for conversions.
When the train reached hansi station, UP police officials arrived on the scene and asked all the four to get out of the train with their luggage. By that time, about 150 Bajrang Dal were standing outside the train calling Jai Shriram. The nuns informed them that they were going on vacation and they would not get out without the escort of female police. But rejecting their suggestion, the police pulled them out of the train by force. Although they showed documents including their Aadhaar card to prove their innocence, the attackers, and the policemen who stood in their support, refused to accept it.
They were greeted by the large crowd of Bajrang Dal workers shouting Jai Shriram calls and then led amidst the din all the way from the railway station to the police station. All along, the mob were shouting extremely communal slogans. At one point, one of the nuns adamantly refused to move any further, without the escort of policewomen. Within a short time, two policewomen were summoned and the nuns were led to the police station. Although they were getting repeated phone calls from anxious callers in Delhi to know what was happening, the police and the assailants did not allow them to take calls. When it transpired that by that time the train had left Jhansi without them on board, those in Delhi got more worried.
The Bajrang Dal workers were all along engaged in high-pitched sloganeering and creating an atmosphere of fear. They dispersed only when the heavy downpour started. The nuns in Delhi then apprised top police officials in Delhi, Bishop House in Jhansi and the IG in Lucknow, via a clergyman who is also a lawyer known to them. At the instance of the IG, top police officials and priests arrived on the spot which saved the nuns from further attacks.
It was 11.30 pm by the time the nuns were released from the police station and led to the Bishop House in Jhansi. Church sources remarked that they were saved from greater hazard thanks to the timely and wise intervention by the priests in Jhansi. Or else, they would have been insulted with mob trial in police presence, framed in fake cases and put in jail. They said that it was because of the sole reason that they were Christian nuns that they were made victims of the attack. They made their onward journey to the destination in Odisha wearing normal clothes with a police escort.
Church officials say that the fact that within short notice about 150 people could be mobilised to the station clearly hints that there was a conspiracy behind their gathering at the railway station and the subsequent attack on the nuns.