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Madhya Pradesh: Nun arrested on false charges of abducting minors

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Bhopal (AsiaNews) – Sister Bina Joseph, a nun detained a few days ago in Madhya Pradesh on false charges of trying to convert four tribal women and girls, was charged with abducting minors.

The complaint was lodged by the father of the underage girl the authorities handed over to the ChildLine service.

“The fundamentalists of the Bajrang Dal and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh youth forced the girl’s father to make a false statement. Police could do nothing but file the complaint,” Fr Maria Stephen, spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh, told AsiaNews.

Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), noted that the nun is being investigated under section 363 of the Indian Penal Code, which concerns abduction.

There is a “growing intolerance towards the Christian faith in Madhya Pradesh, which is under a BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government,” he said. The state’s “small Christian community feels insecure in secular India”.

Fr Maria Stephen noted that Sister Bina and the three Tribal women with whom she was arrested left the city of Bhopal yesterday. On 13 June, the women were stopped at Satna Station whilst on the Shipra Express train from Jharkhand.

The railway police forced them to get off and kept held them at the Satna Station for at least 12 hours before taking them to the police station where they were questioned.

The next day they were released by Judge Balbeer Raman, who found no significant evidence against them.

The Hindu fundamentalist Bajrang Dal, the militant youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and the Matrushakti (the VHP’s women’s branch) had filed a complaint against Sister Bina, a member of the Carmelite Congregation of St Theresa (CSST), of forced conversion of some girls.

The church spokesperson said the nun was traumatised by the whole affair. In his view, the charges are just a whim by Hindu extremists. “Not satisfied with the decisions of the administration, the Bajrang Dal protested for two days calling for action against the nun,” he explained.

Sajan K George is concerned about “hostile acts against Christian missionaries, even against nuns who are subjected to intimidation, harassment and humiliation. This goes against the secular spirit of the Constitution, which guarantees equal recognition to all religions, and [stipulates that they can] live in peace.”

“Unfortunately, some are more equal than others,” he noted. “In Madhya Pradesh, a state with a 50-year anti-conversion law, certainly the [Hindu] majority and their goons have their own rulebook.”

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