Thiruvalla: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday strongly condemned the harassment of a group of nuns from Kerala by some Bajrang Dal activists in UP's Jhansi recently and urged the Centre to take action, saying such incidents tarnish the image of the nation.
In his letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Vijayan sought strict action against those "who disrupt and impair the freedom of individual rights" guaranteed by the Constitution.
Citing reports, he said two postulants, who had recently joined a Christian congregation were travelling for the first time to their homes accompanied by two nuns and were "harassed and intimidated" by the Bajrang Dal activists.
The CM further said the nuns and the postulants were forcefully removed from the train by the police following a complaint from the Bajrang Dal members alleging that the two girls were being taken for forceful religious conversion.
"You would agree with me that such incidents tarnish the image of the nation and its ancient tradition of religious tolerance and practice."
"Such incidents require utmost condemnation by the Union Government," Vijayan said.
Earlier, addressing the media in Pathanamthitta, Vijayan said the Constitution gives freedom to everyone in the country to believe and not to believe in any religion.
Everyone here has the right to live according to their faith, he added.
"... What happened yesterday was an encroachment on the freedom. Both these freedoms are fundamental rights of Indians. The nuns faced the violation of these rights during the train journey," he pointed out.
What happened in Uttar Pradesh should not have happened in the country and it is a "very serious matter."
Vijayan also attacked the ruling BJP in UP, saying the northern state is 'notorious' for such matters.
"Violence in the name of religion is on the rise in many parts of our country. Violence against women and marginalized groups are on the rise."
"Uttar Pradesh is notorious for such matters. All such illegal activities are taking place under the ruling BJP government there. It should also be taken seriously that all this is happening on an uncontrolled scale," Vijayan said.
He asserted that his government would not allow Kerala to become a breeding ground for communalism and secularism would be fully protected.
Meanwhile, noting that UP was ruled by BJP government, Amit Shah, while addressing a poll rally in Kerala, said, "I want to assure the people of Kerala that the culprits behind this incident will be brought to justice at the earliest".
According to officials in Jhansi, the nuns were detained after local Bajrang Dal activists complained that two of the women were allegedly being taken forcibly for religious conversion.
The police said there was no basis in the complaint and all four women later took the next train to their destination in Odisha.
Expressing concern over the matter, Kerala Catholic Bishops Council had called for strong action against the culprits involved in the incident.
The Congress and BJP had taken up the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, respectively.
Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala, strongly condemned the incident.
"I have written to the PM to order an enquiry on the issue and take strict action against the culprits. This is an evidence of how communal harmony of our nation is disturbed wherever BJP rules. Further this should also be viewed as an attack on women. Congress party will use all its might to defend the rights of every citizen of this nation," the senior Congress leader said in a statement.
BJP state general secretary George Kurian wrote a letter to UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, seeking an inquiry into the incident.
In his letter, Kurian said although the nuns were "bonafide religious people, as they were not indulging in any proselytizing activity, they had to alight at Jhansi for questioning by the police."
He requested the UP chief minister to "order an inquiry and punish those who are responsible for such harassment of nuns".
(With inputs from PTI)