Sister Merciana Tuscano, one of the Carmelite nuns attacked, told UCA News that radical Hindu men and women attacked the nuns and girls in the village of Sanghoti in the state of Maharashtra.
The mob shouted at the nuns, accusing them of “converting tribal people to Christianity.” According to Sister Tuscano, the mob “told us to leave the village at once and never to come back or else they would break our legs.”
The Catholic group was in Sanghoti, a village about 75 miles south of Mumbai, to conduct programs for tribal women. The group’s activities include running adult literacy classes, encouraging self-help groups, and popularizing the government’s AIDS program.
The Saturday program was to begin at noon, but at about 10:30 a group of about twenty men and twenty women arrived and began to throw away chairs and tables. Sister Tuscano said that when she confronted the group, “the women caught hold of me, pulled my hair and punched me hard all over my body.”
She said that though she cried for help, the group dragged her out of the venue. The three teenage girls tried to rescue her, but Sister Tuscano said they were “hammered” by the mob.
The second nun, Sister Philomena D’Mello, then arrived with other women for the program. Sister Tuscano told UCA News that Sister D’Mello was also attacked. "The mob rushed at her, caught hold of her, punched her all over. When she fell down in pain, a man stamped (on) her stomach twice," she said.
The mob also attacked the nun’s driver, a Catholic, who tried to intervene.
The injured group was rushed to a government hospital in Albag, but were discharged on Sunday.
Sister Floripe D'Silva, vice-provincial of the nuns’ Carmelite congregation, said she would take the sisters to a private hospital for further evaluation. She said all six victims were traumatized by the incident.
Sister D’Silva said the mob also destroyed a grinding machine donated by a non-governmental organization to help tribal women generate income. She said a Hindu social worker who had come on behalf of the government to talk about AIDS was shocked by the attack.
According to a local police official, 13 Hindu men and women had been arrested for the attack, but were granted bail. The official said the attackers, who were followers of a local guru, accused the nuns of “converting the local tribal people to Christianity.”
Sister D’Silva denied the accusation. “It is a humbug charge. We have not converted a single tribal,” she said. She said that the tribal people themselves have told police that the nuns do not preach religion but only train them to lead a decent life.
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