03/18/2021, 15.10
INDIA
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Madhya Pradesh releases nun accused of violating anti-conversion law

by Nirmala Carvalho

Sister Baghya had filed a complaint against her accuser. The nun will have to cooperate with the investigation. For the president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, “everything can be exploited and distorted by anti-conversion legislation used as a political tool by religious nationalists.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Madhya Pradesh's High Court on Tuesday granted bail to the principal of a missionary school, who became the object of an investigation on 22 February on charges of psychological harassment against a female teacher in an attempt to force her to convert.

Sister Baghya, a member of the Sisters of the Destitute, faced arrest after police charged her with violating the state’s anti-conversion laws.

“Sister Bhagya has submitted that the complaint is false and registered only out of a sense of frustration experienced by the teacher, Ruby Singh, on account of her termination from service at the school,” said Judge Atul Sreedharan.

The school principal had lodged a complaint with the sub-divisional magistrate on 17 February explaining that the teacher was fired because of poor performance and lack of documents and that the woman threatened to commit self-immolation if she was not reinstated.

On 20 February, the same complaint was forwarded to the SDO (P). The complaint against the nun was filed two days later.

“It is clear that Ruby Singh falsely implicated the principal Sister Bhagya by levelling the allegations of forced conversion against her and her family,” the judge said.

The court in Jabalpur asked the accused to cooperate with the police in the investigation and granted her freedom upon payment of a bail of 10,000 rupees (about 0). The case was adjourned until April 7.

Ruby Singh filed her complaint with the police in the presence of leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parshad, a Hindu nationalist organisation, claiming to belong to a lower-middle-class family and to have been pressured by Sister Baghya to convert.

She also claimed that the principal used undignified words about her religion and that she stopped receiving her wages before the was fired after she refused to change religion.

“The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance was introduced in January and converted into law on 8 March,” said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), speaking to AsiaNews.

“Of the 23 cases recorded so far, more than 60 per cent see Christians as the accused. It is just a way of arrest and prosecute members of the small Christian community with false accusations of conversion.

“Its wording is broad and vague so that anything can be interpreted as allurement or inducement to convert.

“The educational apostolate, the health apostolate, the social initiatives of the Catholic Church, everything can be exploited and distorted by anti-conversion legislation used as a political tool by religious nationalists,” George explained.

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