The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala have strongly condemned the attack on two nuns and two postulants when they were travelling from New Delhi to Rourkela in Odisha on March 19. The nuns and postulants belong to the Sacred Heart convent under the Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church. According to the church and videos that have surfaced online, a few members of the Bajrang Dal created a ruckus in the train as it reached Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, claiming that the nuns were forcefully converting the postulants into Christianity.
The postulants were dressed in civilian clothes while the nuns were in their religious habits. Since the postulants had joined the Sacred Hearts Congregation of the Delhi Province recently and were travelling to their home in Odisha for the first time, the two nuns had accompanied them. However, the Bajrang Dal members, who had boarded the train from Rishikesh in Uttarakhand, accused the nuns of forceful conversion.
In the video, the men can be seen interrogating the postulants, who were forced to show their Aadhaar card. The workers were refusing to believe the postulants, who repeated that they were born Christians and were undergoing training to become a nun. The situation worsened when the police detained the four when the train reached Jhansi Railway station and reportedly questioned them for five hours based on the claims of the Hindu group.
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According to a statement from the Syro-Malabar Church, the four women were let off after top officials verified their information. They were then transferred to the Jhansi Bishopâ€™s House, after which they commenced their journey on March 21, with the Railway Police Protection.
On Monday, the Syro Malabar Church in Kerala also condemned the incident. They alleged that the attack was planned as more than 100 Bajrang Dal workers gathered in a short span of time. It was said that the nuns missed their train as the police detained them and had to travel in an unreserved compartment the next day.
Incidentally, Uttar Pradesh Assembly recently passed the anti-conversion law, which prohibits religious conversion by â€śmisrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or marriage.â€ť
Ramesh Chennithala alleged that this incident shows how insecure secularism was under the BJP government in India. "Police tried to trap them using the Uttar Pradesh laws. Though they showed identity cards, they were dragged to a police station without the presence of women police officers. Police allowed the crowd to insult the nuns in their presence. They were detained until lawyers from New Delhi contacted them. Nuns were attacked with permission from the state government," he said in a statement.
The Congress leader also sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking an inquiry into the incident.
In a statement, the CPI(M) state secretariat alleged that the assaults against religious minorities and Dalits in many north Indian states are increasing. It said that the police also encourage the assaulters and that the constitutional rights were breached in these incidents.