Men, reportedly from the Bajrang Dal forced their way into a train and harassed two Catholic nuns and two other young women passengers travelling together, near Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. The senior nuns were in their ‘habit’ or tradition nun’s dress with a headgear that identifies them as members of a congregation, the young women, who were going to join a convent were in regular 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 seemed confident that the law keepers would not correct them were even heard telling the policemen to forcibly take the women out of the carriage. The policemen seemed to comply, even as the goons continued harassing the young women loudly in the train coach itself. While someone filmed, one man demanded that the young woman travelling with the nun show him her identification card, when she replied that she was a Christian and wanted to become a nun herself and was travelling for that purpose.
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. She showed her Aadhaar card, which identified her as a 19-year-old, to the angry men, who then started yelling that it did not “identify her as a Christian”. Clearly the men who just seemed intent on hassling women travelers did not know that the Aadhaar does not mention religious identification of any sort. They then called the young woman a liar and asked the police to forcibly evict them from the train.
The two senior nuns belong to the Sacred Heart Congregation (SH) of the Delhi Province, and were travelling to Odisha from Delhi on Friday, March 19. According to news reports, the nuns and the soon to be student nuns were travelling in the Third AC compartment of the train that rolled out of Delhi at 11:30 A.M. Just before it arrived at Jhansi at around 6:30 P.M, the Hindutva group of men began harassing them loudly. They kept talking loudly in threatening tones and accusing the nuns of “converting” the young women. One of the nuns called the Provincial House, the congregations headquarters in Delhi and informed them of their predicament, all this while the group of men kept shouting ‘Jai Sri Ram and Jai Hanuman’, as per a post by the Vigilant Catholic, an online news monitoring group.
The Hindutva group then allegedly invoked the Anti-Conversion Act that is now enforced in Uttar Pradesh, and called the police as well as more members of their group. According to news reports when the trains arrived at Jhansi railway station at 7:30 P.M, male police officers entered the train and asked the four nuns to evacuate the compartment. The police did not accept their word that they were going on vacation and would not evacuate the train especially without the presence of a female police officer, stated news reports. It is alleged that the local male police forced them out of the train, on the platform were hundreds of Bajrang Dal members shouting slogans.
Sister Usha Maria, the provincial, told Matters India details of the train ordeal suffered by her sisters saying, “The men in their compartment blamed the nuns for forcing the postulants to religious conversion. The 19-year-old students repeatedly told them that they are Christians and they want to become nuns. They showed their identity proof, but the radicals wouldn’t leave the sisters.” She added, “Christians have been facing regular attacks recently in Uttar Pradesh and this is the latest,” and that this is “very dangerous” for a secular country like India.
According to news reports, the women were taken by the police from the railway station to the police station, and the crowd of Hindutva outfit members followed them. It was then that one of the Nuns, insisted that a female police officer be called to accompany them. Meanwhile, senior nuns from Delhi had informed the Jhansi Bishop’s House, Lucknow IG, who then reportedly intervened and met the nuns. The nuns still had to show additional “supporting documents” as demanded by the police to prove their innocence. It is reported that they were allowed to leave the police station at 11 P.M. The authorities took them to the Bishop’s House in Jhansi to ensure their safety.
It is reported that the nuns eventually resumed their journey on Saturday, however this time they did not wear their monatic clothes, and were in ‘civian’ dress to prevent any further attacks.
It is not yet known if any action has been taken by Uttar Pradesh police against the group of men who harassed the four women, and have been filmed doing so.
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