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Priest in India arrested over alleged lewd text to teen

Rajasthan priest's vicar general said text message has been taken out of context

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Priest in India arrested over alleged lewd text to teen

A Catholic priest is being held in custody in the western state of Rajasthan over allegations that he sent an obscene text to a female school student. The vicar general of the same diocese as the priest has said the claim is false. (Photo by Indranil Mukherjee/AFP)

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A Catholic priest in India has been arrested and remanded to judicial custody for allegedly sending an obscene text message to a female student who attends a church-run school where he is the vice-principal.

Father Georgeish Britto was arrested at his St. Anselm's Senior Secondary School in Alwar town in the western state of Rajasthan. Father Britto has been remanded to custody while investigations take place until May 5, said his vicar general Father Edward Oliveira of Jaipur.

The priest's arrest followed a complaint being made by the parents of a grade nine student who accused the priest of sending her an obscene message. The parents also accuse the priest of harassing their daughter and for attempting to convert her to Christianity.

"Church officials said the complaint and arrest are part of an attempt to tarnish the image of the church-run institution in the state," said Father Oliveira. 

Influential Hindu groups Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal staged a protest in front of the school and demanded the arrest of the priest on April 18, a day after the priest allegedly sent the text to the cellphone of the girl's father.

Father Oliveira said the girl was "depressed and has been going through counselling sessions" with Father Britto.

"Some text messages have been picked up and interpreted out of context to shows that priest are violators," said Father Oliveira.

Father Britto was well aware that the girl was using her father's cellphone and there was no question of sending obscene messages, the senior priest said.

The accused priest was charged under the stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

Father Oliveira said the parents have deleted other messages that Father Britto and the girl had exchanged and came up with only one message (that they say is obscene). Since the priest had no such inkling of the trouble, he had already deleted his conversions with her, Father Oliveira said.

"We have appealed to the police officials investigating the matter to recover the conversations to prove the innocence of the priest," he said.

Christian education institutions in several states of India have long been targets for hard-line Hindu groups who have tried similar charges.

Christian leaders say such complaints are aimed at keeping people away from Catholic institutions and missions.

Rajasthan is currently governed by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.

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