JHANSI/KOCHI: Four nuns were taken off an express train and detained for questioning by railway police in UP's Jhansi recently, with the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) expressing concern over the matter.
KCBC on Tuesday alleged two nuns belonging to Kerala- based Sacred Heart congregation and two postulants were harassed during the March 19 incident, even as Congress and BJP took up the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, respectively.
Officials in Jhansi said the nuns were detained after local Bajrang Dal activists complained that two of the women were allegedly being taken forcibly for religious conversion.
The police said there was no basis in the complaint and all four women later took the next train to their destination in Odisha.
Following the ruckus created by local Bajrang Dal leader Ajay Shankar Tiwari along with the activists last week, the four nuns onboard the Utkal Express from Delhi to Rourkela were taken down from the train by the Government Railway Police (GRP) in Jhansi for questioning.
Circle Officer of GRP Naeem Ansari said the complainant had said the women were being taken possibly for forcible religious conversion.
"However, during questioning, nothing as such came to light, and the four passengers were allowed to depart by the next train. No case has been registered in this regard," he said.
During questioning, it was revealed that nuns Libiya Thomas and Hemlata, both residents of Delhi's Vikaspuri, along with Sweta and B Tarang (both 19-years-old and natives of Odisha) were travelling in a sleeper coach of the Utkal Express.
SHO of GRP Jhansi Sunil Kumar Singh said no attack on the rail passengers emerged during the probe.
Meanwhile, KCBC spokesman Fr Jacob Palackappilly alleged that the nuns were forced to change their religious habits and wear civilian dress to protect themselves.
The church called for action from the Centre and the UP government, seeking strong action against the culprits involved in the incident.
It also sought intervention of National Commission for Women, Human Rights Commission and minority commission in the matter.
Since one of the nuns hails from Kerala, the church also invited the attention of the Kerala government in the matter.
Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala, strongly condemned the incident.
"I have written to the PM to order an enquiry on the issue and take strict action against the culprits. This is an evidence of how communal harmony of our nation is disturbed wherever BJP rules. Further this should also be viewed as an attack on women. Congress party will use all its might to defend the rights of every citizen of this nation," the senior Congress leader said in a statement.
BJP state general secretary George Kurian wrote a letter to UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, seeking an inquiry into the incident.
In his letter, Kurian said although the nuns were "bonafide religious people, as they were not indulging in any proselytizing activity, they had to alight at Jhansi for questioning by the police."
He requested the UP chief minister to "order an inquiry and punish those who are responsible for such harassment of nuns".