Fifteen Held in Custody for Missionary Attack

Fifteen people were taken into custody in the southern Indian state of Kerala, following two attacks on workers of the Missionaries of Charity
( [email protected] ) Sep 27, 2004 05:36 PM EDT

Fifteen people were taken into custody in the southern Indian state of Kerala, following two attacks on workers of the Missionaries of Charity. While Kerala's chief minister has promised to act against those responsible, a representative of Indian Christians has blamed the attacks on members of right-wing Hindu political parties.

The three priests and six nuns were reportedly attacked in separate incidences on the outskirts of Kozhikode on Saturday.

The national convener of the Bangalore-based Global Council for Indian Christians Sajan K George said members of the right-wing Hindu parties Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were behind the attack. However, the RSS has reportedly denied any role in the incident and alleged that “vested interests are trying to place the blame on us.”

In a statement the RSS claimed that neither it nor any Hindu organization had any role in the incident and urged the police to probe the suspected conversion activities in which the missionaries were allegedly engaged.

However, according to George, the attackers had raised banners with slogans in favor of RSS and BJP when they attacked the nuns, accusing them of converting Dalit Hindus.

Local sources reported that the first incident took place on Saturday morning when two nuns visited a slum on the outskirts of Kozhikode.

As they were carrying food for impoverished people—mostly Dalits—the nuns were allegedly pulled out of the jeep and the crosses they wore around their necks were allegedly broken.

The nuns managed to escape, fortunately, after some of the locals intervened. The nuns then took refuge in a police station and informed their colleagues of the incident.

An hour later, another jeep belonging to Missionaries of Charity carrying Mother Superior Kusumam and six others, including a Kenyan missionary, arrived at the slum where they were allegedly surrounded and attacked by 40 people carrying iron rods.

Nine missionaries were admitted to a local hospital with head injuries. The assailants managed to escape after the attack.

The fifteen men that the police have so far arrested for the attack on the Christian Missionaries have been charged for attempt to murder, outraging modesty of women and disrupting communal harmony.

Although the governor of Kerala, Oomen Chandy, has pledged his commitment to contrasting extremist violence, George said state officials had been slow in responding to such incidents, including last month's murder of a Christian priest that has yet to be solved.