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Jhansi train incident with nuns shows Christian habits are the new skullcaps in India

After Christian nuns were harassed over fears of ‘forceful conversion’, church groups are advising nuns and priests not to step out in their habits.

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Clothes are deeply embedded in the regional and cultural framework of India. But today, they are being used for something far more sinister — religious profiling.

Certain clothing items are categorically unsafe to wear in this country because they make you easy targets, as the recent train incident in Jhansi with Christian nuns has proved.

Most church groups are already abuzz with directives for safety toolkits for nuns and priests. Some are even advising them not to step out in their habits unless absolutely necessary.

In todays’ political climate, being different is increasingly being conflated with being ‘dangerous’. Hence, something as obviously different as a Christian habit worn by nuns seems to have become an instant trigger for self-styled crusaders and vigilantes.

The Christian nuns and postulants were harassed by Railway personnel and members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the RSS. The two nuns were travelling aboard the Haridwar-Puri Kalinga Utkal Express, when the men asked them to get down and falsely accused them of indulging in forceful conversion.

As Father Jacob G. Palackappilly, spokesperson of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Conference, explained, incidents like this have become a common occurrence in India.

In the past few years, especially, wearing certain items of clothing have become risky. One has to think multiple times before stepping out in anything that may suggest that you are different. An obvious example of this are skullcaps — there is an instant source of discomfort, which has been steadily influenced by bigoted media, when one sees a man with a skullcap on. More often than not, it leads to cases of violence and hate crimes. Similarly, there have been many instances of the Sikh community being targeted for appearing visibly different due to their turbans.

The incident in Jhansi proves that this is also the case with the Christian habit — worn by priests and nuns as a physical expression of their commitment to the faith. Ironically, the idea of a habit, among other things, is to make your appearance more austere, genteel, and therefore non-threatening.

Instead, it is now being used as a marker to channel religious hate.

Also read: If Modi govt doesn’t control vigilantism, history will compare it to Indira Gandhi Emergency

Being a Christian in India

Christians in India have always occupied a tenuous position. Their proportion in the country’s population is small enough to be non-threatening, but as a Christian child, you are taught to keep your head down from an early age.

This is the golden rule, you don’t trouble others and they won’t trouble you.

The predominant religious clash in this country has always been between Hindus and Muslims. But that has not stopped religious hatred and othering to extend to Christians either. While the hate is not as overt as for Muslims (most times), it is very much prevalent.

We are seen as the ‘other’ — western imports or trash converts. Every Christian has been called a ‘rice bag convert’ — a slur used to target Indian Christians for allegedly converting to Christianity for a bag of rice. Churches are also always trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, even during celebrations like Christmas, to avoid trouble with local people or authorities.

And now, it looks like Christian nuns and priests will have to be extra careful while travelling in public because their habits are easy markers of their religious identity.

This is, of course, not the first time that habits have been used to profile and target Christians in India. It was the foremost way of targeting people during the 2008 Kandhamal riots in Odisha. There was such a palpable fear of wearing the habit that my school principal, a nun, had to wear regular clothes to visit Orissa after the riots to help the victims there.

Also read: Don’t listen to VHP and panic. Christianity is a failed project in India

Clothes as triggers

Clothes have always been used to stereotype minorities and have acted as triggers for majority populations.

In the US, a Black man wearing a sweatshirt or baggy clothes is instantly seen as dangerous. In fact, according to a study, most people assume that a poorly dressed person is more likely to be Black, while a well-dressed person is most probably White.

Similarly, a Muslim woman in a hijab is seen as the most oppressed individual on Earth, even if she herself doesn’t think so. Or a Christian habit, that seems to instantly ring alarm bells about alleged forceful conversions. This has very successfully created a fear psychosis.

If one thinks about it, however, this is really a natural progression of things. After all, our prime minister very explicitly encouraged profiling himself when in 2019 he said that those indulging in arson “can be identified by their clothes”, while accusing the Opposition of fuelling violence over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

And people are now doing exactly that — identifying the other by their clothes.

Views are personal.

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  1. Such incidents confirm India’s lowered rating in the democracy rankings was deserved.

    There is no doubt such vigilante violence has been encouraged by the election of Modi, and it will continue as a grotesque and perverse manifestation of Hindu pride.

    To harass four women is the ultimate in cowardice but they are very proud of it and have justifications. India’s ranking for women’s safety is near the bottom, and in the same league as war torn countries. This is another achievement of Hindutva pride. Women from abroad are afraid to come to India.

  2. What can you expect from print …they take whole world’s responsibility to spread the hatred towards RSS or Hindu being.

      • Well Mr Sam, our itchy-testicled shaka intellectual Mr Kunal thinks that it is OK to throw 4 women out of a train in the middle of the night because they happen to be Christians.

        Welcome to Modistan.

    • Why are you angry ? The RSS is very proud of what they do. They are known for cowardice but for them, harassing women is a show of Hindu pride. You support RSS, then you have to support the baggage that comes with them, and the international criticism that follows them. Or else renounce them. You cannot have it both ways – support such harassment of women and minorities, and expect to be seen as noble patriots.

      • Excellent comment Monsieur Spinner !

        Clearly, for Godse worshippers and gomutra swilling “intellectuals” like Mr Kunal, Christians are the next batch of “termites to be thrown into the Bay of Bengal” to borrow Amit Shah’s description of Muslims. And then these Hindutva goons are up in arms when they find out that organisations like Freedom House, V-Dem, the Economist Intelligence Unit, Reporters sans Frontières etc. downgrade India and label it as a flawed democracy. After all, in the Hindutva worldview, the Vishwaguru is infallible and everything is hunky dory in the country.

        As you very aptly put it:

        “.. You cannot have it both ways – support such harassment of women and minorities, and expect to be seen as noble patriots ..”

        The many comments that have come in here attacking the nuns and Christianity for all sorts of crimes – mostly historical – that these 4 women had nothing to do with, I am reminded of the Godhra riots. Innocent Muslim men, women, children and babies were butchered and burnt because other members of the community had allegedly set fire to a train killing Hindus. India still implements the Nazi philosophy of collective punishment: if X commits a crime, then the family and community of X will get punished.

        But not an entirely surprising development – after all the RSS is modelled on Hitler’s Nazism and the RSS finally has planted its Führer in Delhi.

        I am a Hindu – albeit a somewhat lapsed one – and I hang my head in shame because many Hindus now equate Hindutva with Hinduism. And endorse the violent tactic of collective punishment outlawed in international law. Indeed, several highly educated Indians that I have talked to, Hindu NRIs like me that assert that India needs more Godhra pogroms to teach Muslims a lesson – never mind the fact that these very same NRIs clamour loudly for equal rights and minority preferences whilst in the West. Paradoxically, some of the most rabid supporters of Modi, the RSS and Hindutva and people who are virulently anti-Muslim and anti-Christian NRIs are to be found in the Muslims Middle-East and in the formally Christian countries like the US, UK, Canada, Germany etc. The recent survey in the US revealed the prevalence of these attitudes in the NRI crowd.

        On a personal note, I often remind these Hindutva jingoists and of a quote from the famous American lawyer and civil rights advocate Clarence Darrow (1857-1938):

        “True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else”

        1: Indian Americans: Liberal in the US, conservative in India, Ref:
        2: India’s Liberal Expats Are Modi’s Biggest Fans, ref:

    • Mr Kunal: You don’t need The Print or anybody else to tarnish the image of Hinduism, the RSS itself is adequately qualified for the job. The “atmanirbhar” philosophy is at work you see. The RSS, the BJP, Hindu Yuva Vahini, VHP and BJP MPs and politicians like Tejaswi Surya, Godse worshipper Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, Sakshi Maharaj and Führer Narendra Modi are supremely qualified to tarnish the image of Hinduism and the Vishwaguru.

      Perhaps you forget that the RSS itself is derived from 2 extremist ideologies: Hitler’s Nazism and Mussolini’s fascism. RSS Führer Golwalkar wrote in his book “We Our Nation Defined”:

      “… To keep up the purity of the nation and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of Semitic races – the Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by .. ”

      As of now, the Christian nuns and their companions were merely “purged” from a train by your RSS friends. Christians are probably second in queue to get purged, for, unlike Muslims, they have officially not been classified as “termites” to be thrown into the Bay of Bengal.

      No Mr Kunal, The Print does not spread hatred for Hinduism or India – it merely documents the hatred in India towards minorities. The question you need to answer is whether this hatred stems from Hinduism or from Hindutva – assuming of course that itchy-testicled gomutra intellectuals like you know the difference.

  3. Conversion cannot be forced as everyone has a brain to think and decide.

    Unless you need a bag of rice to survive and nobody else provides it, you have all the rights to accept the bag of rice. This is not a forced conversion.

    Christian people are reverred only when it comes to seeking admission to their esteemed schools or hospitals. Otherwise, they are hated.

    I am a Hindu, but I respect Christians at par with any religion.

  4. Indians/Hindus were impoverished, killed, converted & exploited by white British Christian supremacists & Islamist’s!!

    Elsewhere, these same Abrahmics have killed Jews & slaughtered natives in America, Canada & Australia who did them no harm!!

    @The Print, go get a life & search for TRUTH instead of anti Hindu & anti BJP bigotry!!

  5. False narrative being set by the church again!!! The church, especially the Catholic Church should introspect on the countless cases of child molestation right from Australia, Europe to America. The church should look at its practices of literally cheating people to convert them. The church has never apologised for the Goa inquisition where thousands of Hindus were killed for not converting . This is the same church which kept quiet when Hitler was killing millions of Jews in Germany.
    Will the Vatican give permission to a Hindu group to start preaching in the Vatican

    • Mr Arjun Mehta: Truly unfathomable that an educated man like you would justify crimes and acts of violence today by pointing to other crimes or acts of violence in the past.

      Every major religion has spilt blood, discriminated, misused women, instigated wars, justified violence in the name of its specific – directly or indirectly. Islam, Hinduism & Christianity have all had unsavoury, violent pasts and some of the violence continues to this day.

      You say that the Church never apologised for the Goa inquisition – without question, an act of unspeakable cruelty. Likewise, I am quite sure that Islam also has a lot of apologising to be done for its own acts of cruelty in India and elsewhere. And how I wish the spiritual “top brass” of these religion more forcefully condemn acts of violence carried out in the name of these religions. Instead of hiding behind platitudes such as “That does not represent true Islam” or “No decent Christian would do such things” and other bla bla bla.

      But you and I are Hindus Mr Arjun Mehta – even though I may be a very lapsed, non-practising sort of Hindu. So let us look at the unsavoury side of our religion first.

      Hinduism has been particularly nasty to Dalits and lower castes and that is a practice that continues to this day doesn’t it Mr Mehta ? Indeed, in Maharashtra, many Dalits were so oppressed by the upper caste Peshwas that they regarded the British as saviours and sided with the latter during the Battle of Koregaon in 1818. And today, vene in the West where you have Indian immigrants, upper caste discrimination of lower castes is rife. Tech giant CISCO is now being sued as upper caste Hindu managers discriminated against Dalit employees.

      My question to you Mr Mehta: You say that the Church should atone and apologise for its atrocities. By the same token, shouldn’t Hindu spiritual authority figures not apologise for various Hindu flaws such as caste discrimination and even past crimes such as sati? Can you and I as Hindus throw the first stone Mr Mehta?

  6. The author is trying to passively provoke than paint the right picture. Very cunningly he speaks about Sikh’s being targeted. This was once during the riots in 1984 and never after that in India. In USA it is not uncommon but his drawing of parallel where there is none is provokingly mischievous. By and large Christians in India are treated with respect. They to need to introspect their zeal for conversion with the help of foreign funds.

    • @jayant rao: We want to see these leftist presstitutes investigated for their illegal funding!!
      Meanwhile, the Church even signed a deal with communist China while they have been butchering Christians & Muslims!! No alarms! No news!! No propaganda against them!! Tolerant India & Hindus are a soft target for these scoundrels!!

  7. Yes, dumber you are, more dangerous all differences appear to you. Which cult in India is the most dumb? It is Hindutva of course and the RSS leads the pack. Unless India becomes RSS Mukt, there is not much hope here in any sense. Live with the fact.

  8. The author seems to present one sided story of victim hood. Just based on the Kerala media story you have come to a conclusion that the atrocities has been done by ABVP, the other report says that the passengers objected when the nun started preaching and praising the lord and asking adjacent passenger for conversion. I strongly advise the author to verify the incident and then comment or else it should be not the case of Kolkota church incident and later it was found that it was some miscreants / thieves attacked the church, but by the time media started blaming the new NDA govt in the center and conveniently forgot the law and order of the state.
    We from the childhood has always coexisted with believers of all faith and never had any hatred against each other. The author being a learned person should not preach hatred, better the author roam India and experience the beauty of land and how people are coexisting rather than spending time on some stray incidents.
    Meanwhile why can’t the conversion be stopped , let the people practice what they believe in either as a believer or atheist?
    Isn’t it all faith preach the same thing, then why the numbers game ?

    • @Ranjit: All religions are NOT the same!! Dharmic religions are open and loving while Abrahmic religions & ideologies like Christianity, Islam or communism are totalitarian!!

      Hindus have been brainwashed to believe that all faiths are the same!! A Hindu can be a atheist and is permitted to refuse any Hindu god! Can a Christian or Muslim respectively refuse Jesus or Allah??

      Isn’t saying Jesus or Allah is the only god and worthy of worship make you think of dictators like Sadaam Hussein/Gaddafi??

      • So ‘open and loving’ that dharmic religion labels half the population of India as untouchables, and then has to create a law so the latter don’t run away and convert. Practise ‘Forced retention’ in the dharmic fold and complain about ‘Forced conversion’.

        You know the saying ‘Bagal main churi, muh main Ram’ ?

      • Look at Europe you dummy. Almost everyone there are irreligious, so clearly Christians don’t have an issue with that.

  9. I suggest that the author read about one pastor called Pradeep Chakravarthy of AP, who claims to have destroyed 699 village idols in front of the whole village over the past 5 years and has recruited more than 3000 pastors to do the same work. He has put up this video on youtube where he was declaring statistics while canvassing for funds from USA evangelical organisations.
    He was taken into custody because he is a suspect in the 120 cases of temple vandalism in AP in year 2020 alone.
    Maybe you need to read more news, not just your own state or your own religion, if you want to make it as an objective journalist at a national level.
    And by the way, please remember that the first case of love jihad was filed by the church in kerala and the same church has also supported the BJP to pass love jihad law in Kerala.
    The author needs to make sense and the articcles need to be objective. This article is quite clear that she is talking as a spokesperson for one particular religious community.

    • DR. MAHESH DOCHERLA: Undoubtedly, there are many instances of overzealous Christian missionaries going completely overboard with their evangelical zeal. Indeed, many of these evangelical organisations that profess to “spread the Gospel” are nothing but fraudulent outfits that cunning Indians use for siphoning funds from gullible Americans.

      But that is not the issue being discussed in this article Dr Docherla.

      The subject of this article is violent vigilantism by your dear friends – the thuggish, uncouth, uncontrolled Hindutva monkeys that have completely run amok. Your friends, viz. the goons of the ABVP took the law into their own hands and forced 4 women – all Indian citizens – to get out of a train compartment merely because they were Christians. It is that brazen act of lawlessness that the author writes about and for which you have no credible justification. Instead, you beat around the bush and skirt any discussion of the crime that your friends have indulged in.

      I would posit that educated people like you who rationalise this violent behaviour by lumpen Hindutva elements are much worse than than the lumpen elements themselves. Just as Nazi scientists provided the intellectual justification for pogroms against Jews, “Hindus” like you provide cover for the itchy-testicled footsoldiers of a violent ideology called Hindutva – derived from Nazism.

      • WHY should Hindu-stan even accept a foreign Church which protects pedophile pastors for decades?? WHY should India respect them while they were hands in gloves with Nazi Germany??

        Vatican signed a deal with communist China despite they butchering Christians & Muslims!! India should at least regulate Churches & Mosques just as China!!

  10. Very sensible precaution in New India, where it is possible to judge people by the clothes they wear.

  11. Abvp is not the student wing of RSS.

    Articles like this lose their credibility when false statements are made.

    • Shane Simpson: The ABVP is indeed the student wing of the RSS. Indeed, the ABVP website itself cites Shreehari Borikar, national general secretary of Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad:

      “.. ABVP is not the students’ wing of BJP. We are an independent organisation. You may call us the students’ wing of RSS ..”

      So it is your credibility that has actually been reduced to zero Mr Shane Simpson.

  12. Christians, in my opinion, have a tendency to paint themselves as victims and they have successfully done this throughout history, across space and time. Most English speaking media in India is sympathetic to the powerful Christian lobby. So even if a stone is thrown on the window of a church, it becomes national headlines and even international headlines with the powerful Christian West crying about violation of religious freedom. However, when it comes to real attacks on Hindu temples in states like Andhra Pradesh, most likely being a result of an ongoing demographic change due to mass conversions, nobody, national or international media, bothers about them.

  13. Christians are far worse off in Pakistan and Bangladesh – the two other nations which comprised British India. Yet the author has only targeted the Hindus in this article. The Muslims have gone scot free. Rather they too have been painted as “victims” of Hindu hatred.
    Another pertinent point – no Sikh has been subjected to hate crime in India in recent years (last two-three decades). Neither are Sikhs “profiled” negatively in India because of their turban. An egregious attempt has been made by the author to sow seeds of discord between the Sikh and Hindu communities. Minor altercations apart, there is absolutely no hatred between the two communities. Both communities respect each other and get along really well. In fact, intermarriages are quite common and are well accepted. Almost all Hindus whom I know, make it a point to visit and pray in gurudwaras. Also love to have food at the langar.
    Indic religions are inherently tolerant and accepting. They accept every religion as authentic and every God as true. Quite unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Abrahamic religions.

  14. There is no cure for a large segment of Hindu’s inferiority complex and deep rooted insecurity. Lack of
    self esteem and self confidence together make a deadly concoction for them to get drunk with grandeur of delusion.

  15. ‘re profiling by clothes, it will aid credibility of the story if a single instance is cited of a Sikh being targeted for his turban or beard.

    • Mr Bishan Sahai: Heard of the 1984 pogroms against Sikhs? Sikhs are also targeted by your thuggish Hindutva friends outside India because they refuse to kowtow to Führer Modi and his visions of a Hindu India.

      Get real pal.

      • Mr Kili 1984 was instigated by Congress and that is a well known fact. Could you please indicate a single incident of hate between Hindus and Sikhs in India as this author is suggesting? Talking of abroad here in Canada khalistani supporters are actually targeting Indians and Indian consulates in Vancouver Toronto and Edmonton if you actually read the news.

        • Mr/Ms Jp: Thanks for the reply !

          You pontificate:

          “.. 1984 was instigated by Congress and that is a well known fact ..”

          Very true. The riots and pogroms were indeed instigated by the Congress Party.

          Let me fast forward to 2002 and apply your reasoning.

          “The 2002 pogroms were instigated by the BJP and its affiliates such as the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal under Narendra Modi. And that is a well known fact”

          You would agree with that won’t you Mr/Ms Jp ? After all, it is your own logic …

      • Ha!! Ha!! Sikhs were butchered by SECULAR Manmohan’s Singh’s congress just as they have slaughtered Hindus since they created Islamic terrorist-an!!

  16. Stop proselytizing that’s is pretty much fine with us ! One was caught doing that in the banned zone in the Andamans 2 years back! That’s a major money spinning racket where evangilists are involved ! We people in India do not have any problems with Christianity, but just stop the conversion machine !!

    • @peterthepan: Spot on!! We Hindus have been butchered enough by both Christians & Islamist’s!! This must stop along with any conversions whatsoever!!

      One wonders WHY the Church is not able to keep European Christians in their fake belief system (Europeans have left the church in droves) but is attacking Hindus for conversions!! WHY can’t they concentrate their efforts in Europe instead of targeting Hindus??!!!

  17. Sorry…. Totally disagree with the writer….The problem with the Christian Community especially the priestly class, is that they have always been insensitive to the fear of the Hindus about conversion…. Considering the past history of the Christian Priests and the Evangelists, even after Independence, is it any wonder the reaction of the hindus against this insensitivity….. Today the Hindus are assertive and are articulate about their apprehensions and fears, unlike before 2014…. that difference is discernible….. so its but natural for the Christians and the Muslims to feel the pressure and rant against this assertiveness……….

    • @M N Kannan Unni: They use religion as a political tool for land, wealth & soul grabbing!! They use fraudulent religious conversions to operate civilization-al genocide in order to destroy nations!!

      Why do you think that so called religious freedom, human rights & freedom/democracy are their favorite tools against foreign states while they butcher non white natives at home, keep quasi slaves from Africa & help drown Muslim refugees in the sea??!!

      Why do you think Vatican continues to invade Hindus with their BS while White European Christians are leaving the Church en masse every single day??!! Why do you think Vatican is signing deals with communist dictatorship of China even as they butcher Christians & Muslims?

      One wonders why don’t evangelists show up or cry out loud in Islamic theocracies like Pakistan/Bangladesh where most Hindus & even some Christians have been butchered!!

  18. The News Headlines is totally misleading. What does it mean by “Jhansi train incident with nuns shows Christian habits are the new skullcaps in India”? It is obvious that even the Print News carries the bias attitudes towards the Christian. The headlines should have been: “Christian Nun Assaulted in public by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the RSS”. How could you make it the fault of the christian nuns? Why should they be assaulted for wearing christian outfit or Christian habit? The assault was based on false accusation of forced conversion.

    Hatreds towards other religious groups is definitely a deal breaker for India and it should not be taken lightly nor tolerated. Unfortunately, the Indian state has no interest to punished those who commit crimes in the name of religion. That’s the reality of of 21st century India, unfortunately, India is regressing instead of progressing.

  19. the incident is condemnable and action must be taken. but one sparrow does not make a summer. it is national interest that we do not generalize the situation.

    • @Kasiviswanathan Krishnan: What makes you think that Christians & Islamist propagandists, Hindu civilzational genociders & proselytizers care for Indian national interest??

      They are their political ideology cloaked in religion to change Indian demographics in order to decimate Hindus & this nation!!

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