Indian police nab Hindu leader for priest extortion plot

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

March 17, 2023

By UCA News reporters

World Hindu Council official demanded thousands of dollars not to file false sex allegations against Catholic priest

A right-wing Hindu leader’s attempt to extort money from a Catholic clergyman by threatening to implicate the priest in a false sexual assault case has landed him in jail in a southern Indian state.

Mutuvel, who goes by a single name and is district secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) in Ariyalur in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, was remanded in judicial custody following his arrest on March 13. 

The arrest followed a complaint from Father Dominic Savio, parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Ariyalur in Kumbakonam diocese.

“Muthuvel through one of his agents, Vinod Raj, a Catholic, demanded I pay Rs 2.5 million (US$30,306). Failing which, he threatened to embroil me in a sexual assault case,” Savio told UCA News on March 16.

The police also obtained conversations between Raj and Muthuvel, allegedly conspiring to foment communal violence in the city with another person agreeing to fund them to the tune of $6,000.

Police have charged Muthuvel with provocation with the intent to cause a riot, promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion, and an intentional insult to breach the peace.

As part of his extortion plot, Muthuvel allegedly threatened to accuse him of harassing girls in his schools. The priest is co-ordinating the administration of three diocesan schools.

He had even allegedly sent a group of women to protest in front of his church to put pressure on the priest.

“It is not the first time that he has targeted me. Muthuvel has harassed me for the past several months. He has filed several bogus sexual assault cases before,” the priest said.

“Every time he filed a fake complaint I had to face questioning, but on March 13 when his henchmen demanded money, I recorded it and lodged a complaint,” he added.

The police immediately swung into action and arrested him.

Muthuvel also targeted church people in January 2022 when he accused the hostel warden of the Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School in Michaelpatti in Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu of forcing a 17-year-old girl to commit suicide after she refused to convert to Christianity.

Sister Sahaya Mary, a 62-year-old member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, also known as the Pondicherry Blue Sisters, was arrested and jailed in connection with the suicide.

The nun was released on bail several months later. The case is now being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation, a federal agency.