Indian nuns harassed, detrained; Shah assures action against culprits

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Indian nuns and postulants of the Sacred Hearts Congregation of Delhi Province were forced to detrain by the Railway police in Jhansi after a group of Hindu activists accused them of forced conversion.

Indian nuns and postulants of the Sacred Hearts Congregation of Delhi Province were forced to detrain by the Railway police in Jhansi after a group of Hindu activists accused them of forced conversion. However, their accusation was later proved to be false.  

On Wednesday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sought Shah’s intervention in the incident of four Christian women harassed purportedly by Bajrang Dal activists in a train in Jhansi last week.

In a letter to Shah, Vijayan demanded strict action “on all groups and individuals who disrupt and impair the freedom of individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution”.

“You would agree with me that such incidents tarnish the nation and its ancient tradition of religious tolerance and practice. Such incidents require utmost condemnation by the Union Government,” Vijayan wrote.

In the letter, Vijayan has also drawn Shah’s attention to the fact that the group of four women who were “harassed and intimidated by around 150 Bajrang Dal activists,” were removed from the train in Jhansi at 11 PM without the presence of a woman police official.

Shah assures strong action

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday assured strong action against those who allegedly harassed the Indian nuns during their train journey via Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh.

Addressing a rally in Kerala, Shah said, “I want to assure the people of Kerala that the culprits behind this incident will be brought to justice at the earliest”.

The women were travelling from Delhi by the Haridwar-Puri Kalinga Utkal Express on Friday. The two 19-year-old postulants had joined the Sacred Hearts Congregation recently. The postulants were going back home on holiday in Raurkela accompanied by the nuns after finishing their course in Delhi.

They were made to get off the train when it reached Jhansi at around 8 PM and then kept in the Government Railway Police station there till 11 PM. The Indian nuns were rescued by church officials from the local St Jude’s Shrine who arranged for their overnight stay in Jhansi, said Sister Usha Maria of the Congregation in Delhi. The women took the same train the next day to Odisha.

Nuns forced to detrain

Sister Maria, who was not one of the four women but dealing with the matter on behalf of the organisation from Delhi, said a group of male co-passengers who were already on the train when it reached Delhi started questioning the women about where they were going and what their identities were.

“The group of men started accusing the sisters of taking the girls for conversion. They complained to the Railway police in Jhansi and forced them to get off the train there,” she said.

In the presence of the police which came inside the coach in Jhansi, the girls were made to show their Aadhaar cards to establish their identities. “They were frightened. So when the police and the men asked them to show their Aadhaar cards, they did.”

She said that the women informed the Congregation officials in Delhi after trouble started on the train. “Thereafter we tried calling them but they were not allowed to receive calls. We could contact them only when they had reached the police station,” she said.

RPF question nuns

A video circulated on social media shows the Indian nuns being questioned by the Railway Protection Force and others, and also being heckled by multiple male voices in the background, inside the train compartment. One of the postulants is seen saying that they were already Christians and that they were preparing to become nuns.

“My aim is to become a good sister,” the postulant, who identified herself as Shweta to the police, says. One of the nuns tells the police and the group that these are educated girls who had joined the Congregation. “Dharam parivartan kara rahe hain yeh log”, one male voice is heard saying in the video.

In the video, the girl takes out her Aadhaar card and hands it over to a man wearing a red shirt and khaki pants. He passes it on to someone, who is apparently shooting the video, to take a picture of the card.

‘Hum log bhi Hindu samaaj…’

When asked to get off the train, one of the sisters is seen asking them to first show her where the other two women had been taken earlier. To that, she was told that they were on the platform. When she asked how they would proceed on their journey from there, one male voice is heard saying: “If you are proven right then we will arrange for your journey later.”

“Hum log bhi Hindu samaaj se kaam karte hain… Hindu sanstha se kaam karte hai,” another male voice says in the presence of the police. Sister Maria said that people kept chanting slogans in the station as well while the women were being taken to the GRP station there. She refused to give out the names and contact details of the four women. “They are not here. They are on holiday. It is not possible to contact them,” she said.

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