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Nun was gang raped and priest brutally assaulted in Kandhamal

Parvathi Menon

FIRs lodged but no arrests by State government; no response from Centre; Sister Nirmala wrote to CM and PM appealing for protection to Christians

— Photo: AFP

TERRIFYING VIOLENCE: A vandalised church in Tengedapathar village in Kandhamal district. A mob shouting anti-Christian and Hindutva slogans targeted this church three days after the gang rape of a nun and attack on a priest in K.Nuagaon.

Bhubaneswar: The Orissa government has failed to take any action, under the law of the land, against those who committed bestial crimes — the gang rape of a 28-year-old Catholic nun and the brutal attack on a Catholic priest who courageously resisted their attempts to force him to participate in the atrocity. These incidents took place on August 25 at K. Nuagaon, 12 km from the Baliguda subdivision in Kandhamal district. Both victims filed First Information Reports at the Baliguda police station. Sister Nirmala, Superior-General of the Missionaries of Charity, wrote to the Orissa Chief Minister and the Prime Minister specifying the atrocities.

The brutalisation of the nun and the priest by a mob raising anti-Christian, Hindutva slogans took place around 1 p.m. at the site of the Divya Jyothi Pastor Centre. The church was burnt the previous day in reprisal against the murder of an RSS activist, Lakshmanananda Saraswathi, and four of his associates on August 23. The gang rape of the young nun, whose “virginity [was] grossly violated in public” (and whose identity is being withheld by this newspaper to protect her privacy) took place in front of a police outpost with 12 policemen from the Orissa State Armed Police present and watching, according to Father Thomas Chellan, the priest who was dragged out and badly beaten.

“Around 1 p.m., a gang came and pulled me and the Sister out of the house where we had taken shelter and started assaulting us,” Father Chellan told The Hindu in a telephonic interview from Kerala where he is recuperating.

“My appeals to the policemen who were standing nearby and watching only resulted in further beating. At one point the nun slipped away to plead with the police for help but she was dragged back by the mob and her blouse torn,” he said. The nun was gang raped in a nearby building, and he was doused with kerosene by the mob, which threatened to set him on fire. They were saved by a group of youth who took them to the police outpost where “one among the attackers was present with the police between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.,” Father Chellan said.

News of the K. Nuagaon atrocity was conveyed through mobile phones to several priests and nuns hiding in the forests, fearing for their lives as the anti-Christian hunt was on. The victims were taken to the Baliguda police station around 9 p.m. where they lodged First Information Reports. “I believe the Sister wrote in her complaint that she was raped,” Father Chellan said.

The atrocity, about which the State government has not gone public, has outraged and terrified Christian organisations working in Kandhamal district. News of it was brought to the notice of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik by Raphael Cheenath, Archbishop of the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar diocese.

Sister Nirmala wrote letters to the Orissa Chief Minister and the Prime Minister on this and other brutal attacks on Christians in Orissa. In her letter, dated August 28, 2008, to Chief Minister Patnaik, she took up “a very sad incident, soon after the eruption of the violence” of “one young sister, consecrated to God, who was administrator of an institute, being hunted out of her hiding place and stripped naked by the mob and her virginity grossly violated in public, without any help from the police present there.”

In her appeal for protection to Christians, Sister Nirmala urged the Chief Minister to “ask the Central Govt. for as many extra forces from the Centre as they are willing to give and you need.”

When contacted, Praveen Kumar, Superintendent of Police, Kandhamal district, told The Hindu that investigations into the episode by a Deputy Superintendent of Police were on and “the law will take its course.” He confirmed that no arrests have been made in connection with the incidents.

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