Seven more individuals were arrested on Thursday in connection with the recent attack on some workers of Missionaries of Charity in Kozhikode, taking the total number of those arrested in the case to twelve.
"In all, we have arrested seven persons on Thursday morning from various parts of the town area and the search is still going on," Crime Branch Superintendent of Police, Mathew Polycarp, told reporters.
Operations were continuing in and around the district to trace the remaining culprits responsible for the attack, the police official said.
On September 25, the three priests and six nuns from Missionaries of Charity were attacked by an unconfirmed number of assailants at a Dalit colony in Olavanna panchayat when they visited the area reportedly for a rice distribution program.
In the assault, the aggressors reportedly attacked two groups of workers as they were carrying food for impoverished people living in the nearby slums. The first group was allegedly pulled out of the jeep and the crosses they wore around their necks were broken. The nuns managed to escape fortunately, after some of the locals intervened.
An hour later, another jeep carrying Mother Superior Kusumam, head of the Kozhikode chapter of Missionaries of Charity, and six others, including a Kenyan missionary, arrived at the slum where they were allegedly surrounded and attacked by 40 people carrying iron rods.
After the attack, the nine workers were admitted to a local hospital with head injuries.
Sources say local Hindus accused the nuns of “converting Dalits” –the lowest of India’s castes– from a local village to Christianity. However, according to Bishop Percival Fernandez, the Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India the missioners were not involved in conversions.
“Their only goal is to bring food and provisions to the poorest families,” Fernandez told Italy-based AsiaNews after the attack. “They treat them with dignity and love even if they are Hindu. I am certain that if their aggressors need help, they would do everything in their power to do so.”
On the Tuesday following the attack, the National Minorities Commission similarly stated that the members of the Missionaries of Charity were 'not engaged in conversion acts.' In addition to this claim, the Commission also stated that an independent agency should probe the incident to bring out the 'real facts'.
While one person was arrested on September 30, four others were arrested on Tuesday, the day when the crime branch took over the probe.