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RSS Men Attack Nuns' House in Jhajjar District of Haryana, Just 55 km from National Capital New Delhi

Churches protests unceasing violence against Christian community in India

New Delhi, 11 November 1998

Archbishop Alan de Lastic, Archbishop of Delhi and President, Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, has called on the Government of Haryana to ensure the safety and security of Nuns working in the Kheri Khummar village in Jhajjar district.

Archbishop de Lastic headed a team to the village following complaints by Sisters Daisy and Litsy of the Franciscan Clarists Congregation that their small convent, which runs
a tailoring training centre and tuition classes for village children, was attacked late in the evening of 9th November 1998. The nuns were not injured, though some of their students were beaten up by the anti-social elements.

John Dayal (Convenor, United Christian Forum for Human Rights and National Secretary of the All India Catholic Union) and Mr Shailesh Mark (Evangelical Fellowship of India) were part of the team that went to the Kheda Khummar village in Jhajjar District of the north Indian State of Haryana, a mere 55 km from the national capital, New Delhi. The nuns said their home had been attacked on the night of 9th November. The nuns do not have a telephone, and could inform their friends and the church the next day.

Jhajjar village has over 1,000 families -- of whom about 100 families belong to the Dalit or former untouchable classes and the rest are of the Aheer caste, a people traditionally farming the land and breeding cattle.

The two sisters, of the FCC Franciscan Clarist congregation, whose main work is in education and health ministries, run an adult education Centre teaching tailoring to women, and a coaching centre for young school going children. The nuns have successfully revived a defunct women's organisation which is now acting as a pressure group to persuade the local authorities to bring drinking water and other facilities to
the village.

The village has a political tradition of being anti-establishment. The state of Haryana is now ruled by a coalition of former Congressman Bansi Lal, the chief minister, and his allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the right wing Hindu nationalist group which is also in power at the centre.

The Bharatiya Janata party and its militant wing RSS are apparently trying to establish a foothold in the village, and have successfully used local factional politics to woo influential persons, including some families whose control over the village leadership has been shaken by the emancipation of other village women who are now active in the women's movement.

According to villagers, the grown up son of one of these women is at the heart of the current controversy. He has brought in the Hindutva group from nearby town of Jhajjar and Rohtak to eject the nuns from the village as the nuns are seen as the persons whose own example of hared work and their leadership in brining the women together in developmental activity has galvanised the social dynamics of the village.

It is important to remember that the nuns have been saved from a more vicious attack because of the support of the local women, who came to their rescue in the attack, and then kept guard over them during the night when no other help was available. The police has been relucatant to act against the culprits.

The centre has been in operation for two years in the village, about 60 km from New Delhi.

In her complaint to the District Superintendent of police, Mr. Navdeep Singh, Sr. Daisy said: On the evening of 9th November at around 6 p.m., a group of about 30 people attacked the centre, ransacked the rooms, abused the nuns and drove away the children who were at that time studying in one of the class rooms.'

The mob leaders also threatened Sr. Daisy and Sr. Litzy, and ordered them to leave the village by the same night, otherwise `they would have to face dire consequences.'

The anti-social elements, who had broken into the small centre by scaling the walls of the house and unbolting the closed doors from inside, went away when the women of the village came to the rescue of the nuns.

A group of village women guarded the nuns till the morning, when Sr. Daisy went to Jhajjar to meet the Deputy Commissioner and police officers.

The village women have identified the ring leaders. According to the village women, these include three or four persons who came from the town and belong to a particular organisation.

The Deputy Commissioner of Jhajjar, Mr. Arun Kumar, and the Superintendent of police, Mr. Navdeep Singh, who met with Archbishop de Lastic this morning, have assured strict action against the culprits. The Deputy Commissioner said senior officers, including the Sub Divisional Magistrate and the Tehsildar, were handling the

However, two days after the incident, the police have yet to trace the main culprits involved in the attack on the centre. Policemen have been posted in the village since yesterday.

Archbishop Alan de Lastic has written to Prof. Tahir Mahmood, Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, and the Union Home Minister, Mr. L K Advani, bringing the incident to their attention. The Archbishop said he was informing them as a matter of abundant caution so that the situation was not aggravated

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This report is provided by the National Christian Forum for Human Rights