|India Priest Accused of Molesting Woman Arrested, Then Released
Union of Catholic Asian News
March 23, 2009
JABALPUR, India (UCAN) -- Police in central India arrested and then released a Catholic priest on a molestation charge, but Church people have dismissed it as an attempt to defame the Church.
Father D. Davidson of Bhopal archdiocese was arrested on March 21 on charges of molesting a woman in his parish house in Berkhera near Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh state. He was released the same day.
A police official said they had registered a case of sexual molestation under a section of the criminal code which allows the local police station to grant bail without taking the accused to a court. "So we released the priest on bail but will continue the investigation," he added.
Father Anand Muttungal, spokesperson of the Catholic Church in the state, dismissed the case as "a well-orchestrated drama to defame the Church."
Father Davidson, narrating the entire incident, recalled in the past few days before his arrest that a woman had been coming to the parish house seeking work as a domestic servant. The priest refused her request twice as she was a stranger.
"As soon as I saw her (a third time) I shouted at her to go out," but she refused. The priest then called the house maid and parish workers to take the woman out of the house. But the woman suddenly broke her glass bangles and threw them on the corridor, apparently to create proof that the priest had broken them during an attack. She later lodged the molestation complaint.
Father Muttungal said that some Hindus had pressed the police to register a rape case. Succumbing to pressure, the police registered the case even though it was a "fake complaint."
He added that the case "is just a continuation" Hindu radicals systematically targeting Christians with tacit state support. The Church wants a "fair probe to bring out the truth" and punish the guilty "for painting a bad picture" of Christians, he said.
Since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian people's party) started governing Madhya Pradesh from December 2003, the state has reported more than 170 major attacks on Christians and their institutions. The reason given for most of the attacks was supposedly to prevent Christians from converting poor Hindus.
Father Muttungal said he "cannot rule out" the incident as part of a strategy to create sectarian divisions ahead of the parliamentary election due in the state on April 23 and 30.
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