Dumka: A Jesuit priest has been sent to 14 days of judicial custody for allegedly molesting a girl student in eastern India.
The police in Rajmahal, Jharkhand state, arrested Father Soosai Nayagam five days ago, after the 19-year-old girl accused him of molesting her. Rajmahal is some 445 km northeast of Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand state.
The 60-year-old priest is the principal of St. Berchmans Inter College, Mundli, Sahibganj, some 40 km northwest of Rajmahal, where the girl studies.
Father Nayagam belongs to the Dumka-Raiganj Jesuit province and his confreres say the arrest was made on “fabricated charges” by vested interests who resented the priest’s attempt to restore discipline among students and teachers.
“This is disturbing news,” said Jesuit lawyer priest Father P A Chacko in an email seeking prayers for the priest’s immediate release. Father Nayagam, he asserted, “has become an unjust victim of illegal detention.”
Father Chacko said that on November 24, police officer Umesh Ram took Fr. Nayagam into custody based on an unsigned statement of the student. The police slapped the priest with crimes such as rape and atrocities against tribals and produced him before the chief judicial magistrate of Rajmahal.
The magistrate on November 25 sent the priest to judicial custody for 14 for interrogation.
Father Chacko noted that the girl’s alleged complaint had no signature. It was allegedly recorded on the basis of an oral statement, he added.
He alleged that a section of teachers made some disgruntled students to revolt against the principal after he began demanding strict discipline from students as well as teachers.
The girl “became a handy tool for them and they made her state that the principal molested her,” Father Chacko’s email said. He said the allegation encouraged “unscrupulous elements” to attack the principal.
“Under the guidance of certain teachers, the students went on a rampage, held the principal hostage and manhandled him, and destroyed college property.”
When the school administration sought the police help office Ram arrived with a team and sympathized with the students. The police then handcuffed Fr. Nayagam and took him to the police Station.
Father Chacko alleged that the girl made the statement before a judicial magistrate after the priest’s arrest.
Father Nayagam is the second Catholic priest attached to a school to face alleged molestation charges in the tribal-dominated Dumka diocese.
In 1997, Father Swaminathan Christudas was charged with sodomy and paraded naked in the streets. He was the vice principal at St. Joseph´s School in Dumka town.
Father Christudas´ counsel said the allegations were “baseless and concocted by some selfish people” who resented Father Christudas´ demeanor as “a strict disciplinarian (who) never bowed down to pressure.”
He noted that the first information report charged the priest with trying to sodomize the student while the charge was later changed to committing sodomy.