Syed Khalique Ahmed | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI—All India Catholic Union (AICU) has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, seeking action against the vigilante groups and the government railway police(GRP) allegedly involved in harassment of two nuns of the Sacred Heart denomination and two postulants at the Jhansi railway station of Uttar Pradesh on March 19.
The letter signed by AICU national president Lancy D Cunha and its spokesperson John Dayal demanded that the “vigilante groups are not allowed a free hand in terrorizing helpless people who cannot defend themselves”.
They appealed the PM to warn the police force, particularly under the Central government, that a severe disciplinary action will be initiated against them if they are found abetting such crimes or remain bystanders when the vigilante groups take the law in their own hands.
Though Shah, who was campaigning in Kerala on the day the incident took place, promised that action will be taken against those involved in harassment of the nuns, no action has so far been taken either against the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) workers and Bajrang Dal activists or the Government Railway Police (GRP) allegedly involved in deboarding of the nuns and their harassment.
According to reports, an ABVP worker Ajay Shanker Tiwari, who was travelling in the same train, called ABVP and Bajrang Dal workers at Jhansi railway station and complained to GRP alleging that the two nuns were talking to two girls and alleged that they wanted to convert the girls to Christianity. ABVP is the students wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh considered to be BJP’s political patriarch. BJP is ruling at the Centre and in UP, besides many other states like Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Assam, Goa, Himachal Pradesh etc.
It was only after the intervention at senior levels in the UP police that the two nuns and postulants were allowed to go.
“Although you made the assurance to the people of Kerala where you were campaigning in the state assembly elections, we hope the assurance is to the entire community in India which has been shocked by the vigilante persecution of religious women of the community in public transport with the active participation of policemen”, the letter said.
“Such incidents, you will agree, bring India to shame in the eyes of the world and prompt United Nations and other international groups to mention them in their reports,” the letter points out.
Stating that “there is no place in any civilized and tolerant democracy for such vigilante harassment”, the two Christian leaders hoped that “PM and Home Minister will write strongly to Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Union Railways minister in whose jurisdiction the crime has taken place”.
“That such incidents take place at all is a matter of deep concern, and that such targeted hate amounting to violence and gender harassment happen now is extremely alarming and of great concern,” the letter read.
Stating that the two postulants were going home for Easter holidays and the two nuns had accompanied them for safety, the letter said that the video of the incident in the train shows the men started chanting Jai Shriram and Jai Hanuman accusing the nuns of conversions. The two girl students repeatedly told the vigilantes that they were Christians and also showed them their identity cards but they would not leave them.
“The police who came also showed little respect for the law of the land, and instead of restraining the men, forced the nuns to get down at the Jhansi railway station,” said the letter.
“At the railway station more than 150 men surrounded the sisters, shouting slogans. The nuns were taken to the police station and the mob followed them shouting slogans.”
Kerala CM also writes to Amit Shah
Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has also written a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah seeking strict action against those involved in the shocking incident.
He said that the two nuns and two students with them were heckled and harassed by over 150 ABVP and Bajrang Dal activists and also mistreated by railway police.
Stating that “harassment of nuns in UP is shocking”, Kerala CM said that the incident amounted to violation of fundamental rights of Indian citizens and has tarnished the country’s image and its ancient tradition of religious tolerance.
John Dayal calls harassment of nuns as ‘Christophobia’
Participating in a webinar by ‘Alliance to Save and Protect US from Infiltration by Religious Extremism’ on March 28, Dayal described the harassment of nuns travelling in train as an example of “xenophobia and Christophobia” in India.
Speaking of the violence by Hindu hardliners, he said that it were the Hindu extremists who razed to ground 600 Christian houses, 300 churches, 70-80 schools and colleges in Kandamahal in Odisha in 2007. As many as 120 people were killed and 16,000 others were displaced in Kandamahal violence. “This was targeted hate”, he said.
“India has become Republic of Hate”: Fr Cedric Prakash
Well-known human rights activist and former director of NGO Prashant Fr Cedric Prakash, taking part in the webinar, said that after attacks on Christians and their churches in Gujarat in 1998, the then prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Gujarat. “I accompanied him and showed him the burnt churches,” he said.
“Vajpayee said this should not happen to Christians and any one else. But after three years, 2,000 Muslims were killed in Gujarat when Narendra Modi was Chief Minister of the state and he is now Prime Minister”, Fr. Prakash said.
Condemning the Jhansi incident with nuns, he said that a pastor in Bengaluru was prevented by goons from conducting prayers in a hall. “India has become a Banana Republic, Republic of Hate”.