A member of a religious movement with tattoos of Hindu god Ram’s name on his body looks on during an annual festival in Chhattisgarh on Jan 20. The central Indian state is known for unprecedented violence against Christians (Photo: AFP)

By UCA News reporter

Feb 9 2024

INDIA – An Indian court has remanded a Catholic nun in judicial custody for her alleged role in the suicide of a minor schoolgirl in a central Indian state.

Police in central Chhattisgarh state arrested Carmelite nun Mercy on Feb 7 and produced her before a local court in Ambikapur, a major township in Sarguja district in the state.

Sister Mercy (who goes by one name) was accused of abetting suicide, a crime punishable with 10 years of jail term or life imprisonment.

Her arrest came after the suicide of a Grade 6 girl student of the Carmel School in Ambikapur on Feb 6 night. The nun teaches in the school.

The student, who committed suicide by hanging from a ceiling fan in her home, accused the nun of torturing her in a suicide note. Police recovered the note.

“It is not yet clear whether the suicide note is original. But the allegations against the nun are false,” said Father Lucian Kujur, director of education in Ambikapur diocese.

It is true the nun had taken the girl’s identity card and asked her to bring her parents the next day as she was absent from classes, the priest said.

“She along with four other girls remained in the toilet instead of attending the classes,” the priest said.

“When the nun noticed them, she collected their identity cards and handed them over to the office,” the priest added.

Sister Mercy is not involved in teaching the girl and there were no such complaints against her, the priest added. More than 8,000 students study in the school

Right-wing Hindu activists protested in front of the school, demanding the arrest of the nun and the principal.

“School is currently shut and the police force is deployed. We hope it will be reopened soon,” said Father Kujur.

Chhattisgarh witnessed unprecedented violence against Christians in 2022 as more than 1,000 indigenous people were driven out of their homes in the Bastar region.

The state, currently ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, recorded the highest number of violence against Christians in 2022, said United Christian Forum, an ecumenical forum that tracks prosecution against Christians in India.

The ruling party has announced plans to amend the stringent anti-conversion law in the state with extended jail term provisions.

Christians make up a mere 2 percent of its more than 30 million population with more than 80 percent Hindus, including the indigenous people, who are grouped under Hinduism under India’s Census. – UCA News