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Jesuit priest bailed in scarf controversy

Indian college welcomes head home with open arms

Jesuit Father Ephraim Baa Jesuit Father Ephraim Baa
  • Ajit Paul, Ranchi
  • India
  • January 12, 2011
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A Jesuit priest in an eastern Indian town was released on bail yesterday, three days after he was arrested for removing the face scarf of a Muslim girl student.

Police arrested Father Ephraim Baa, head of the Intermediate section of St Xavier’s College in Ranchi, on Jan. 8, charging him with several offences including wrongful restraint, criminal force on women with intend to outrage modesty and making assertions prejudicial to national integration.

Father Baa applied for bail on Jan. 10, saying his action was “strictly disciplinary” and that he had no intention to hurt any community.

Meanwhile, the college, which was closed following the controversy, resumed classes.

Chief Judicial Magistrate Vijay Kumar granted bail and asked the priest to deposit 5,000 rupees (US$110) as security.

Father Baa’s lawyer told the court that the priest had removed the scarf on Jan. 7 only to ascertain that the girl, who was protesting and refused to show her identity card, was from his college.

Public prosecutor Sanjeev Kumar Sinha, who did not oppose the bail, said the police had registered the case “on the spur of the moment.”

Students and staff received Father Baa with great enthusiasm on his return from the jail.

Father Nicholas Tete, who heads Jesuit’s Ranchi province, said the court’s decision had made teachers and students “very happy.”

Father Baa described his stay in jail as “holy journey” that helped him share the agony of many helpless prisoners.

The priest, who coordinates the prison ministry in Jharkhand state, has offered Sunday Mass at the Birsa Munda Central Jail since 2002. He said the arrest helped him spend more time with the prisoners.

“I found many there who had no access to sound legal help,” the priest told ucanews.com today.

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IB12827.1636
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