Indians Demand Justice for Raped Nun

By Sahana Ghosh
2015.03.16
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IN-nun-620-March2015 Indian nuns in Ranaghat, West Bengal, participate in a demonstration against a colleague’s rape, March 14, 2015.
AFP

Thousands marched peacefully in the Indian state of West Bengal on Monday in a show of solidarity for an elderly nun and member of the country’s Christian minority who was reportedly gang-raped at a local convent over the weekend.

Demonstrations took place in Kolkata, the state capital, and in Ranaghat, a town 70 kilometres (43 miles) away, where the alleged crime occurred in the early hours of Saturday.

“We want justice,” demanded the marchers in Ranaghat, who included nuns, priests and students.

In Kolkata, demonstrators held up signs saying “We want a rape-free India.”

“We are worried about the rising number of attacks on Christian schools in this country,” said Sister Pushpa, who teaches at Our Lady Queen of the Missions School in the satellite town of Bidhan Nagar. 

Monday’s march down Park Street, a main road in central Kolkata, was called by Thomas D’Souza, the archbishop of Kolkata.

“We have assurances from the government that the culprits will be arrested but not much headway has been done in this regard. We are shocked and appalled,” D’Souza said.

Anti-Christian act?

The alleged rape victim is a nun in her 70s who works at the Convent of Jesus and Mary, a Roman Catholic school in Ranaghat.

The crime occurred during a break-in there by an armed gang. The intruders vandalised church property, including desecrating the chapel and breaking a statue of Jesus, according to news reports.

They tied and locked up three other nuns, including the school’s principal, in another room. According to news reports, the rape victim’s assailants dragged her across seven rooms after she had confronted them about the vandalism.

After the assailants allegedly raped her, they made off with valuables from the chapel as well as Rs. 700,000 (U.S. $11,140) in cash, police said.
The crime has shocked people in Don Bosco Para, a largely Christian community that surrounds the convent.

Many of the families that live there have members working in Arab countries, who donate lavishly to the chapel.

“The incident is scary. Many families here have their men-folk working overseas. If such a thing could happen at the school, what protection do we have?” Ranaghat resident Mili Ray said.

Town residents also expressed fear for the students at the Christian school, saying they could be targeted next. 

Developments in the case

The police have launched a manhunt for seven suspects, four of whom were captured by closed-circuit camera footage. Police have circulated sketches of another three suspects.

So far, 10 people have been arrested in connection with the case. 

However, it is not yet clear whether burglary was the motive for the attack.

Eight days before the incident, school officials had complained to police about threats from a parent of a student who was expelled for misbehaviour.

According to reports, the police didn’t follow up on the complaint.

The West Bengal Commission for Women is looking into the matter.

“A week ago, some miscreants entered the school and threatened one of the sisters, saying ‘I will kill you.’ The school authorities lodged a complaint but the police took no action,” Commission chairwoman Sunanda Mukherjee said.

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