Saturday, June 17, 2006

Christians' gangrape complaint caught in conversion row

Milind Ghatwai

Posted online: Friday, June 16, 2006 at 0000 hrs

Day after two Christians allege gangrape, conversion charge against them, husbands; SP, DM report says victims' husbands at fault

BHOPAL, JUNE 15: The alleged gangrape of two Christian women in Nadia village in Khargone district has set off a chain reaction of allegations and counter-allegations here. A day after the rape complaint was lodged, an FIR has been has lodged against them and their husbands, charging them with forcibly converting locals.

The women, in their complaint, alleged that they were raped on the night of May 28. The complaint was filed on May 31. A case under Section 3(4) of the Freedom of Religion Act, 1968, was registered against five people, including the two women and their husbands, with the Bhagwanpura police on June 1.

Following the complaint and other reports of attacks on the Christian community in the state, the Prime Minister sent a two-member team of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) to Madhya Pradesh. Governor Balram Jakhar had also sought a report from the state government on the alleged gangrape.

The NCM has noted with concern the "counter-FIR" filed against the rape victims. NCM member Harcharan Singh Josh told The Indian Express on Thursday that he has sought a detailed action taken report in both cases where complainants were charged with conversion. "It seems the administration has done it to counter the main FIRs," Josh said.

Further, the superintendent of police and the district magistrate have, in their reports, given a clean chit to the alleged rapists, instead arguing that the gangrape complaint came after the women's husbands were confronted by villagers for forcibly converting tribals. Describing as "eyewash" the administration's action, Josh says, "How could a handful of poor tribals forcibly convert others when they had little to offer?"

The SP's and DM's reports, accessed by The Indian Express, say that on May 29, around 100 villagers had gone to the victims' houses to warn their husbands against conversion. The villagers later submitted a memorandum. "Before the conversion charges could be investigated, the women lodged rape complaints," the district magistrate said in his report. "Prima facie, it doesn't appear that the victims were prevented by anyone from filing complaints on May 28 and May 29," the report said.

District magistrate SK Pal said when an SDM sought to probe the incident, the victims avoided meeting them. "The reluctance to discuss the matter with officials raises doubts about the incident," he said.

The offence under anti-conversion law was registered after the charges in the villagers' memorandum were probed, SP RL Borna said. Further action, he said, would be taken after getting the results of the DNA tests.

Church vandalised ahead of NCM visit

BHOPAL: A day before the NCM team visits Jabalpur to investigate the alleged attacks on the Christian community, a church was vandalised by activists of the Hindu Dharma Sena on Thursday. They alleged that poor tribals from Mandla and Dindori districts were converting for money. In Bhopal, Bajrang Dal district convenor Devendra Ravat met the NCM and alleged that the police had not taken 26 cases of conversion to court. Ravat alleged that orphans and poor children from Jhabua were being offered Rs 2,000 to convert to Christianity.