After Bengal, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has focussed his attention on poll bound Kerala. The first issue, he has sensed that now has the potential of becoming a major political issue is the public harassment of Catholic nuns and two trainee nuns on a train near Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. Shah has assured that strict action will be taken against those guilty.
A group of aggressive men, reportedly from the Bajrang Dal or from the ABVP forced their way into a train and harassed two Catholic nuns and two other young women who were candidates to become nuns, near Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. The senior nuns were in their ‘habit’ or tradition nun’s dress that identifies them as members of a congregation. The young women, who were going to join a convent were in salwar kameez. However at the sight of the nuns, one of whom hails from Kerala, a group of men started hurling rude questions at them, all of which were answered patiently and politely by the women. The men told policemen to forcibly take the women out of the carriage. The goons continued harassing the young women loudly in the train coach and later also on the platform when they were deboarded. The goons were accusing the senior nuns of forcibly “taking the girls away to convert them,” however the young woman answered bravely that she was already a Christian and was going to follow her calling.
The video clip went viral and the message reached the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) loud and clear. According to Indian Express, at a rally in Kerala, on Wednesday Shah said, “I want to assure the people of Kerala that the culprits behind this incident will be brought to justice at the earliest”.
This ‘assurance’ came soon after Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had written to Shah. Vijayan demanded strict action “on all groups and individuals who disrupt and impair the freedom of individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution”. He wrote, “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.”
Harassment of nuns in UP is shocking. Indian citizens’ fundamental rights have been violated. @BajrangdalOrg & @Uppolice have tarnished India’s image and our ancient tradition of religious tolerance. Wrote to @HMOIndia requesting intervention, so that authorities take action. pic.twitter.com/H9IMAupesd
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) March 24, 2021
However, Shah in return attacked the Left government during his own roadshow in Kerala raising the Sabarimala issue, saying that, “Communists want to destroy the culture and heritage of Kerala” adding that the BJP “believes that the government should not interfere in matters related to temples and that the devotees have the right to do so.”
കേരളത്തിന്റെ സംസ്കാരവും പാരമ്പര്യവും നശിപ്പിക്കാൻ കമ്മ്യൂണിസ്റ്റ്കാർ ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്നു.
ക്ഷേത്രങ്ങളുമായി ബന്ധപ്പെട്ട വിഷയങ്ങളിൽ സർക്കാരുകൾ ഇടപെടരുത്,അതിനുള്ള അവകാശം ഭക്തർക്കാണ് എന്ന് ബിജെപി വിശ്വസിക്കുന്നു.പോലീസ് വേഷം ധരിച്ച കമ്യൂണിസ്റ്റ് പ്രവർത്തകർ ശബരിമല ഭക്തരോട് മോശമായി പെരുമാറി! pic.twitter.com/H9C6s6ckSW
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) March 24, 2021
However, Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who is also a Politburo Member, Communist Party of India (Marxist), said the “people have sworn to defeat those who dream of establishing a theocracy.” He said that “communalism needs to be opposed to uphold secularism”. Vijayan had also invoked “freedom of individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution” and asked the HM to take strict action against all groups and individuals “who disrupt and impair” it.
In Pathanamthitta, the people have sworn to defeat those who dream of establishing a theocracy. They agreed that majority and minority communalism need to be opposed to uphold secularism. To ensure a peaceful society, devoid of communal tensions, it is #LDFforSure pic.twitter.com/1kvH1jbCpy
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) March 24, 2021
Responding to the letter, Amit Shah said strict action will be taken against those involved in the incident. “The people of Kerala will not face any issues,” he said while addressing a rally in Kanjirappally area of Kottayam district in Kerala reported India Today. He said, “I want to assure the people of Kerala that the culprits behind this incident will be brought to justice at the earliest”.
However, the Congress leadership too has taken a dig at the HM’s “assurance” to get justice for the nuns who were harassed. Congress General Secretary, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, said it was only because there is an election in Kerala that “Amit Shah is busy giving hollow statements about protecting nuns from harassment.” She said the goons who are accused in the case are all affiliates of the BJP.
Which political party runs the government that enables these goons to harass and demand personal details of young women commuting on a train?
Which political party do these goons belong to?
Which party’s student wing are some of them members of?
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) March 25, 2021
Meanwhile there is a deafening silence from the Church on the issue, especially the Church in Kerala, where it has been previously reported that the right wing has been busy wooing the Church leaders with offers of helping settle property disputes etc. A few weeks ago Sangh Parivar leaders met the Church leaders, reportedly to “settle an old property dispute”. However in Kerala politics this is a clear move to develop a relationship with influential church leaders, which can then help the Bharatiya Janata Party reap rich rewards in the upcoming Assembly elections. Around two months ago, the church leaders had also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi.