Activists protest attack on nuns in Maharashtra

March 23rd, 2008 - 8:26 pm ICT by admin  

Mumbai, March 23 (IANS) The recent attack on two nuns and adivasi (tribal) girls in a hamlet in Maharashtra’s coastal belt of Raigad by a mob has sparked a furore amongst the people and intelligentsia here. Progressive groups including women’s rights activists from all over the state have decided to stage a sit-in at Alibaug, the district headquarters of the Raigad region, Monday and then hold protest demonstration at the historic Azad Maidan in Mumbai Tuesday.

The attack on nuns - Sister Marceline and Sister Philomena - working with non-governmental organization Jeevan Jyoti Kendra in the hamlet of Sahanughati, in Alibaug district, south of Mumbai, took place March 15.

Joseph Dias, of the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), said: “The attack on the minorities in Maharashtra is a case in point of the growing number of instances, wherein clergy and members of minorities, specially Christians, are targeted by fundamentalists with the state turning a blind eye (to it).”

Adivasi Hak Sangharsh Samiti leader Vaishali Patil, who works in Raigad area, told IANS that the attack took place when a group of Rotarians organized a camp to educate tribal women on AIDS and also to inform them about the state government’s Employment Guarantee Schemes (EGS).

“As the education camp was in progress, a mob, possibly of 100 people, came to the camp and started beating up adivasi girls and the two nuns. The two nuns and two girls - Sonali Naik, 16, and Sangeeta Naik, 17 - were pummelled and hit at private parts before being dragged on the camp ground,” said Vaishali Patil.

“We informed the police but after much hiccups, they registered a case against the attackers. Thirteen persons were rounded up and were freed on bail. And then a day later, I found that the police registered a first information report against me,” Patil said.

Civil rights activists from Mumbai and Raigad region met Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil to tell him about the attack and to seek action against the attackers.

According to Joseph Dias, the pattern of attack on the minorities and specially Christians, “reveals that the aim in Maharashtra is to create a fear psychosis and subjugation among the Christians. And the focus of the attacks is now gradually shifting to cities - Mumbai, Thane, Nashik and Pune.”

Dias said: “Since 2005, there have been over 32 such attacks on clergy, social workers and convents. And if one studies the pattern, it is discernible that the attacks are slowly inching nearer and nearer to the major metros of Maharashtra. The latest incident should not be seen in isolation but it should be viewed as a part of a sustained campaign.”

According to the government’s census, the targeted Katkari tribe has about 180,000 people in the coastal Raigad region. This accounts for 11.8 percent of the total populace of the region.

Anthropologists have categorized Katkari tribe as one of “the most primitive, marginalized and the fastest diminishing tribes of India.”

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