Belagavi Police sent back a group of tourists from Maharashtra after allegations that some Hindutva activists assaulted some of them after accusing them of trying to indulge in conversion.
Members of Vishwa Mandal Sevashram, Sirpur in Maharashtra, who were touring parts of Karnataka and Goa, were sent back to Sirpur from Belagavi on Tuesday. The sevashram is an NGO that provides vocational skill training among rural youth.
Gunilal Resla Pawara, a 42-year-old teacher who was injured in the alleged attack, said that a group targeted them and attacked them on the Nizamuddin-Vasco Goa express train near Sangli in Maharashtra. They got off the train in Belagavi and called some of their friends.
“We are a group comprising 24 men and 14 women travelling in various bogies. When the train reached Sangli station at around 9.30 p.m. on Monday, around 15 men barged inside the bogie and started abusing and assaulting us stating that we were missionaries and we were on a conversion tour. We told them we are on an educational tour but they did not listen to us. They began attacking us,” he said.
Gunilal Paward suffered a hit on his head and he started bleeding. “Some of the passengers called the police in Miraj. Some policemen entered the train in Miraj but the assailants escaped,’‘ he said.
He said that the group was planning to visit the Kolhapur Mahalakshmi temple and the Kanheri Math, along with other places in Karnataka.
The victims were taken to a dormitory on the St. Paul’s Junior College campus on Monday night. On Tuesday, officers from the Camp Police Station sent them away in a KSRTC bus to Maharashtra.
Bishop of Belgaum Rev. Dr. Derek Fernandes has condemned the alleged attack.
“I am shocked to hear about the incident which should not have happened in a democratic country like us. I urge that the authorities concerned to act against the attackers,’‘ he said.
Meanwhile, members of the Bajrang Dal Belagavi unit have submitted a petition to the police seeking action against the sevashram teachers and office-bearers saying that they were trying to convert innocent tribals in the name of skill training.