09/12/2008, 00.00
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Police gag order silences Sisters of Mother Teresa

by Nirmala Carvalho
Nuns are accused of abducting and converting children, but they regain custody after accusations are shown to be false. Sangh Parivar, which accuses them of “child trafficking,” plans a demonstration against the nuns for tomorrow. Insecurity spreads to the state of Karnataka where three Pentecostal churches are shut down despite having all the right papers.
Chhattisgarh (AsiaNews) – Police have imposed a gag order on the nuns from the Missionaries of Charity who were charged on 5 September with kidnapping and converting four infants. Radical Hindus are instead stepping up their campaign against the sisters whose convent is now under police protection.

“Police and Durgh (Chhattisgarh) district administration officials came to our convent, which is dedicated to Mother Teresa, and told us not to talk to anyone about the incident,” Sister Mamata told AsiaNews. “An administration official explained that the order was for ‘our own good’ because Hindu militants are trying to mobilise public opinion against us and our missionary work.” The convent itself is under around the clock police protection. But “the administration official told to continue our work helping children and the marginalised,” she added.

Last 5 September, anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death, four sisters, including Sister Mamata were attacked by Bajrang Dal activists at the Durgh railway station (Chhattisgarh).

The Hindu radicals forced them to get off the train, handing them over to police after accusing them of abducting and converting the infants they had with them. The children were placed in a government-run hospital under police protection.

Subsequently the nuns filed a complaint with the police, presenting the children’s identity papers. After being thoroughly checked the papers were found to be valid and authentic, and the children were returned to the nuns.

Frustrated in the attempt to smear the nuns, Hindu radicals and the Sangh Parivar (an umbrella group that includes various Hindu nationalist and extremist groups) are now organising a protest against what they call “child trafficking by the sisters of Mother Teresa”.

Social activist Kiran Dan told AsiaNews that the Sangh Parivar “has presented a memorandum to the district collector (administrator) calling for the nuns to be arrested and the inquiry re-opened.”

This episode comes amidst a new wave of violence against Christians, accused of forced conversions, that began in Orissa two weeks ago and has spread to other Indian states run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Anti-Christian sentiments are spreading to Karnataka as well,” said Sajan K George, from the Bangalore-based Global Council of Indian Christians advocacy group. “Hindutva groups are going around threatening Christian communities with media reports about the destruction and fires inflicted upon their fellow Christians in Orissa, telling Christians that they too would meet the same fate and forcing them to stop their prayer meetings.

In Davangere (Karnataka) the threats were made good. Three Pentecostal churches were shut down for allegedly being “unauthorised”. The ministers in charge of the three places of worship have rejected the accusation, making public all the relevant papers, but so far to no avail; their churches are still closed.

Sajan K George noted that every Sunday Sangh Parivar extremists invade Christian places of worship, shouting anti-Christian slogans and beating up the faithful. By and large police just stand by watching, silent.

Talking about the incident in which she was involved, Sister Mamata told AsiaNews that “Mother Teresa worked tirelessly to bring God’s love to the poorest of the poor. We are but her daughters and all we want is to continue her work even if it means suffering. Indeed we are ready to pay the price for being disciples of Jesus.”

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See also
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More than 500 cases of anti-Christian violence in 23 months
Orissa government cuts death toll from anti-Christian pogrom
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