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Indian nuns 'manhandled' at Good Friday service

Officials barged in and stopped special service being held on public land in Tamil Nadu

Indian nuns 'manhandled' at Good Friday service

Police arriving to stop Good Friday ceremonies of a parish in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Officials disrupted the services of the Dalit Catholics on the grounds that they had no permission to hold such services on the public hillock, a government owned property. (Photo supplied) reporter, Chennai

April 17, 2017

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Police and local civic officials forcibly stopped a Good Friday service being held on public land in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

"Government officials stopped the service midway, pulled down the altar and manhandled nuns," Father Masiladaikalam Jacob, pastor of Sogandi Parish where the April 14 incident took place, told The parish comes under Chingleput Diocese. 

Eye-witnesses said that the offending officials, including police, were led by the sub-district's revenue officer.

"The veils of nuns were pulled and they were pushed. It was unbelievable to witness," Father Jacob said.

Police used force to remove parishioners during the afternoon Good Friday service being held on a hillock near the parish church. 

During the commotion, the Eucharist fell down, the priest said. "It is a sacrilege and it is painful," he said.

The shocked parishioners began a demonstration at the site which continued until midnight.

Hindu groups from nearby villages objected to Catholics using the hillock for spiritual purposes arguing that it is public land.

The parish has used the hillock for the past 15 years for its Easter Triduum services. They have built a Marian grotto at the hillock's crest and laid a special path for the Stations of the Cross and placed an altar there for Mass.



On Dec. 31 last year, a hard-line Hindu group pulled down crosses that symbolized the Stations of the Cross and painted Hindu symbols instead.

The issue is both communal and caste based, said a church source. The Catholics come from former untouchable Dalit communities, while the Hindus are from the upper castes, who are supported by hard-line Hindu groups opposed to Christian minorities, the source said.

Bishop Anthonisamy Neethinathan of Chingleput visited the parish and led the Easter Mass on April 16 as the parish could not hold an Easter vigil due to the prevailing tension.

"This whole incident is unprecedented and very painful. Even if there is a contention, the officials could have waited for the service to finish rather than barge in and disrupt it," Bishop Neethinathan told

Diocesan officials have visited the district government to demand action against the officials involved and local Catholics are planning a protest, the bishop said.

Father Vincent Chinnadurai, former spokesperson for the Tamil Nadu Bishops' Council, said the church wants the government to move against the officials' high handed action. "Our state usually has a very tolerant culture," he said.

Violations against Christians are frequently reported from northern India, especially states ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, the priest said. Tamil Nadu is ruled not by the Bharatiya Janata Party but by the regional All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or All India Anna Dravidian Progress Federation.

The Bharatiya Janata Party is seen as the political wing of Hindu nationalist groups who want to make India a Hindu-only nation. Their recent electoral successes have emboldened hard-line groups to accelerate their move for Hindu hegemony, Father Chinnadurai said.

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