Piyush Goyal cornered: UP Railway police arrests 2 Hindutva activists for threatening Kerala nuns

Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal dismissed as wrong the allegations that the nuns were "attacked" during a train journey and that Hindutva activists were involved
Piyush Goyal; the harassed nuns
Piyush Goyal; the harassed nuns

Two weeks after the report of two nuns being harassed and deboarded from a running train after they were accused of taking two young women for religious conversion hit the headlines, the railway police in Uttar Pradesh’s Jhansi has arrested three youth in connection with the case. The two arrested by the railway police last night have been identified as Anchal Arjaria, president, Rashtra Bhakt Sangathan, Purgesh Amaria, secretary, Hindu Jagran Manch. Ajay Shankar Tiwari, an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad worker was arrested this morning.

"In the case of forceful deboarding of nuns and teenagers from coach B-2 of Utkal Express at Jhansi railway station on 19 March 2021, the district administration and police administration have detained Anchal Arjaria and Purgesh Amaria for involvement in the incident. Action will be taken against the others involved too," a statement from the Jhansi administration said.

Naeem Kham Mansoori, a senior official of the railway police, said that a team of the railway police were carrying out a patrolling exercise at the Jhansi railway station when they were informed that two people were discussing the March 19 incident and saying that the police did not act properly and let off the nuns. “The men were questioned and the men got agitated and said they would plan a protest against the cops. This is why they have been arrested. The police has taken suo moto cognizance of this case and we will file an FIR and send them to jail," said Mansoori.

On March 19, two nuns were forced to change out of their religious habits into civilian clothes midway through a rail journey to protect themselves and two postulants with them from possible attacks by right-wing Hindutva activists. The group were traveling from Delhi to Rourkela in Odisha. The nuns were in their habit, while the girls were in civilian dress. The postulants, who had joined the Sacred Hearts Congregation of the Delhi Province recently, were going home for Easter holidays and the nuns were accompanying them for safety.

According to a press release from the Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church Media Commission, the group had reached Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, at around 7:30 pm when a few Bajrang Dal activists, who were returning from a pilgrimage, abused, harassed them and caused trouble said the press release issued by Father Jerry Joseph (Alex) Onampally, the commission secretary.

The Hindutva radicals’ prime allegation was that the nuns were taking the postulants for religious conversion. The youths then began causing a commotion. They accused the nuns of violating the state’s anti-conversion law. The nuns and postulants were deboarded from the running train when the train reached Jhansi station.

The nuns were taken into custody by the police after they arrived at the Jhansi railway station, even though they had valid documents. The nuns and the postulants were quizzed for five hours and released after officials from Jhansi Diocese intervened by contacting senior police officials. The group was allowed to continue their journey the next day on another train with a police escort as they feared retaliation from the right-wing Hindutva activists. The nuns are said to have had to change out of their religious habits and put on civilian clothes in order to avoid the attention of Hindutva extremists.

The incident - which took place just ahead of polls in Kerala - had generated outrage. As Kerala CM Vijayan flagged concerns about freedom of individual rights in the incident, Home Minister Amit Shah promised strong action.

Amit Shah pointed out that Uttar Pradesh was a BJP-ruled state and promised to bring before the law, those behind the incident. “I want to assure the people of Kerala that the culprits behind this incident will be brought to justice at the earliest.”

Last week, Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal dismissed as wrong the allegations that two nuns were "attacked" and that Hindutva activists were involved during the train journey. He alleged that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was "making false statements" on the issue.

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