Nuns' harassment:Shah promises action, Vijayan writes to Centre

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Eds: Combining releated stories, adds details Kanjirappally/Thiruvalla (Ker), Mar 24 (PTI) The alleged harassment of nuns belonging to a Kerala-based congregation in Uttar Pradesh recently had its echoes in the poll-bound southern state on Wednesday, with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan taking it up with the Centre and Home Minister Amit Shah promising strong action.

While Vijayan flagged concerns of freedom of individual rights in the incident, Shah pointed out that Uttar Pradesh was a BJP-ruled state and promised to bring before the law, those behind the incident.

According to officials in Jhansi, the nuns were detained on March 19 after local Bajrang Dal activists complained that two 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.

Shah, in the state to campaign for the party ahead of the April 6 Assembly polls, said, 'I want to assure the people of Kerala that the culprits behind this incident will be brought to justice at the earliest.' The issue was raised before Shah by BJP's Kanjirappally assembly candidate and party's Christian face K J Alphonse, also his former ministerial colleague in the union cabinet.

In a memorandum addressed to Shah, Alphonse said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has in various meetings with the Christian community, 'has assured equality for all, as enshrined in the Constitution.' 'Such incidents perpetrated by fringe elements and groups create a sense of insecurity in our minority community,' he said.

The incident, coming in the backdrop of the saffron party reaching out to Christians in the state, is being seen by Kerala BJP leaders as a setback for their bid to win the community's votes in certain segments like Kanjirappally and Thrissur.

The party's top leaders campaigning in Kerala had met Bishops of Catholic Church in Ernakulam and Thrissur seeking their support in the election.

As part of its outreach, senior BJP leader and deputy chief minister of Karnataka C N Ashwath Narayan had met a senior Catholic priest early this month, seeking to 'gain the confidence' of the community.

BJP state chief K Surendran had also met Syro-Malabar Church head Cardinal George Alencherry.

Soon after the alleged harassment of the nuns was reported in the media on Tuesday, Kerala BJP secretary George Kurian had written to UP CM Yogi Adityanath on the issue.

Lashing out at the BJP over the incident, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan urged the Centre to take action, saying such incidents tarnish the image of the nation.

In his letter to Shah, Vijayan sought strict action against those 'who disrupt and impair the freedom of individual rights' guaranteed by the Constitution.

'You would agree with me that such incidents tarnish the image of the nation and its ancient tradition of religious tolerance and practice.' 'Such incidents require utmost condemnation by the Union Government,' Vijayan said.

Seperately, Vijayan told reporters that the Constitution gives freedom to everyone in the country to believe and not to believe in any religion.

'.. What happened yesterday was an encroachment on the freedom. Both these freedoms are fundamental rights of Indians. The nuns faced the violation of these rights during the train journey,' he pointed out.

'Uttar Pradesh is notorious for such matters. All such illegal activities are taking place under the ruling BJP government there. It should also be taken seriously that all this is happening on an uncontrolled scale,' Vijayan said.

He asserted that his government would not allow Kerala to become a breeding ground for communalism and secularism would be fully protected. PTI TGB RRT SA BN BN