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Indian nun granted bail in student suicide case

Carmelite Sister Mercy spent 51 days in jail in central Chhattisgarh state, may be released before Easter
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Activists and members representing the Christian community display placards as they take part in a peaceful protest rally against what they claim is an increase in hostility, hate, and violence against Christians in various states of the country, in New Delhi on Feb. 19. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 28, 2024 10:27 AM GMT
Updated: March 28, 2024 10:30 AM GMT

A top court in a central Indian state has granted bail to a Catholic nun who spent 51 days in jail after being blamed for the suicide of a schoolgirl.

Carmelite Sister Mercy, who goes by a single name, obtained bail from the Bilaspur High Court in Chhattisgarh state on March 28.

She was arrested on Feb. 7 in Ambikapur, a major township in Sarguja district, but failed to get bail from the local court.

“We are happy that the high court has granted bail to our sister,” said Sister Beena Therese, the provincial of Carmel Matha Province, Hazaribag.

Sister Mercy is still in Ambikapur jail and may be released in a day or two after completing legal formalities, she said.

“We are sure she will be with us for Easter. The top court order is a big relief for us,” Sister Therese told UCA News.

Police charged the nun with "aiding and abetting" the suicide of a grade six girl student at the Carmel School in Ambikapur, where the nun was a teacher.

Police claimed the girl, who hung herself at home, left a suicide note blaming the nun. However, Church leaders suspect the authenticity of the police version.

The nun was not even teaching the girl. She had caught the girl with three other students bunking classes and taken away their identity cards asking them to come along with their parents to the office the next day.

But when news of the suicide spread in town, some Hindu activists staged protests in front of the school, demanding the arrest of the nun and principal.

“We are sure the nun is innocent, and she will be vindicated in court,” said Father Lucian Kujur, director of education in Ambikapur diocese.

The priest said they were relieved after she was granted bail and were awaiting her release from jail.

Chhattisgarh is ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party and hardline Hindu groups often target Christians and their institutions.

The state witnessed unprecedented violence in 2022 and more than 1,000 indigenous Christians were driven out of their homes in the Bastar region.

It topped the list of states in the country where persecution against Christians recorded a sharp rise in the first 75 days of 2024 – from Jan. 1 to March 15, according to a report by the United Christian Forum (UCF), an ecumenical body that tracks incidents of persecution against the community.

Chhattisgarh recorded 47 anti-Christian incidents, including physical assault, social ostracization, and denying access to common water sources and even burial grounds.

Christians make up a mere 2 percent of the state’s more than 30 million people, about 80 percent of them Hindus.

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