Saturday, October 04, 2008

Orissa Crime Branch to probe nun’s rape

Prafulla Das and Parvathi Menon

Only a CBI investigation can bring the guilty to book: Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar

BHUBANESWAR: Bowing to building political and media pressure to take action against those guilty of the rape of a nun in K. Nuagaon village in Kandhamal district on August 25, the Orissa government ordered on Friday an investigation by the Crime Branch into the incident, on which a case was registered under Section 376 and other sections of the Indian Penal Code.

The government has suspended the Inspector in charge of the Baliguda police station where the nun had filed her complaint. It has also arrested four accused in the case, although the principal accused, the man who raped the nun, is still at large, the Kandhamal district Superintendent of Police, Praveen Kumar, said.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told a news channel on Friday that “stringent action” would be taken against the “shameful incident” of the nun’s rape.

For many Christian organisations, whose clergy and followers have been under sustained attack in Kandhamal district since December 2007, and particularly after the murder of the VHP leader Lakshmanananda Saraswathi by Maoists on August 23, this announcement by the State government is action too little too late. They want the government to hand this case, and other cases of communal atrocities, to the Central Bureau of Investigation for investigation and prosecution.

“If the State government is interested in bringing the guilty to book, why is it not handing over the case to the CBI?” asked Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Raphael Cheenath. Criticising the State government’s handling of the situation, he told The Hindu that the case relating to the murder of Lakshmanananda Saraswathi, the upsurge of communal violence that followed, and the case of the nun’s rape should all be handed over to the CBI. It is a demand that Swarupananda Patra, President of the Orissa Minority Forum, supports. “We cannot expect a fair probe by the Crime Branch,” he told this newspaper.

Dazed and terrified, the victims of the violence and of the attempts at forced conversion (to Hinduism) that these attacks are invariably followed by, stream into the relief camps with nothing but the clothes they wear. According to the State government, there are 14,000 persons living in government relief camps in Kandhamal. This figure is contested by Christian groups. Archbishop Cheenath told The Hindu that the number of displaced people from Kandhamal is actually close to 40,000.

“We had to leave our homes after some 100 people came to our village at night and threatened to kill us if we continued to live as Christians,” Royal Kumar Nayak, a resident of Malikapaudi village who is now in the YMCA relief camp at Bhubaneshwar, told The Hindu. Meanwhile, peace eludes Kandhamal district, with each day bringing reports of fresh cases of violence by Hindutva organisations against Christians.

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