March 09, 2005

Falsely accused priest arrested in Gujarat


Mumbai (AsiaNews) – An Indian Jesuit was arrested and jailed in Gujarat (western India) on the basis of false accusations made by a woman who claimed he tried to convert and have sex with her.

Christian leaders have called on the Gujarat state government to immediately intervene and secure the unconditional release of the Fr Prasad Gonsalves, who was arrested “only because he is a missionary”.

Fr Gonsalves was sent to jail on March 7 by a court in Radhanpur after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) convinced Shanteben Gulabbhai from Jawaharnagar village to press charges against him.

Two months ago Ms Gulabbhai had asked Father Gonsalves for help in finding a place to live in her district, which is located some 300 km from the Banaskantha district (northern Gujarat) where the Jesuit priest is a trustee of the local Catholic Ashram, which runs a low-cost housing project for the poor and disadvantaged.

The clergyman had told the woman that he could not help given the great distance between them. After being turned down she went to the police to press charges against him only to change her mind later saying that she just wanted to get back at the Jesuit. Father Gonsalves eventually said he would try to do something to help the woman.

Posted by kshaw at March 9, 2005 08:29 AM