Friday, October 24, 2008

‘Where is that sister…Come let us rape her, the crowd shouted’

New Delhi, Oct 24 (IANS)

"I hid myself under the staircase. The crowd was shouting ‘where is that sister. Come let us rape her, at least 100 people should rape.’”Her head down, her bespectacled face wrapped with a printed scarf, her voice steady except for once when she broke down and sobbed, a nun Friday recounted before a stunned nation the horror of her rape two months ago in Orissa’s Kandhamal district at the hands of a mob baying for vengeance for the killing of a Hindu leader.

Appearing live on TV news channels, the nun narrated her ordeal in the Indian capital, where she was brought by activists, and the way the state government and political parties had turned a blind eye to her suffering.

The press conference was held at the Indian Social Institute. Flanked by Christian leaders, the nun read out her handwritten statement that often made quite a few in the audience wince in horror.

The nun said a mob of 40-50 people dragged her out from the house of a “Hindu gentleman” where she was hiding, ripped off her clothes and raped her on a verandah strewn with glass.

“They pulled out my saree and one of them stepped on my right hand and another on my left hand and then a third person raped me on the verandah,” the nun, who did not take any questions, recounted in a choked voice of the Aug 25 incident.

“When it was over, I managed to get up and put (on) my petticoat and sari,” she said with her head bowed, stirring the conscience of a secular country that has been shaken by recent assaults by Hindu fanatics on minorities in Orissa and Karnataka states.

The nun recounted her story here two days after the Supreme Court ruled out an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the alleged rape and asked her to cooperate with the state police in the investigation. She had not made a public appearance after the incident was reported.

It was a painful journey the Indian nun had to endure all the way from Bhubaneswar to New Delhi to draw attention to her plight because, as she herself has said in the past, she had lost faith in the Orissa Police to bring to book the perpetrators, reported to belong to the Hindu extremist group Bajrang Dal.

The alleged rape took place two days after the killing of a prominent Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader and four of his associates in his ashram in Kandhamal. The killing triggered widespread anti-Christian attacks in the district.

Not surprisingly, at the end of the 15-minute hair-raising narrative, the nun was in no frame of mind to take questions and was quickly ushered out of the room by another nun and an advocate.

After the rape, the nun and Father Thomas Chellantharayil were made to walk on the road to Nuagaon market, which was half a kilometre away.

“They made to fold our hands and walk. I was with petticoat and sari as they had already torn away my blouse and undergarments. They tried to strip (me) even there but I resisted and they went on beating me with hands on my cheeks and head and with sticks on my back several times,” the nun said.

Personnel of the Orissa Special Armed Police (OSAP) were present at the spot but didn’t even attempt to intervene, the nun alleged.

“When we reached the marketplace about a dozen of OSAP policemen were there. I went to them asking to protect me and I sat in between two policemen. But they did not move. One from the crowd again pulled out from there and they wanted to lock us in the temple mandap,” she recounted.

Eventually, the nun and the priest managed to find their way to a police station, where the officials initially refused to register a complaint. They relented only after she underwent a medical examination and then too, what was recorded was an extremely watered down version of the incident, the nun said.

Replying to queries, the Archbishop of Delhi, Father Dominic Emmanuel, said the nun had come to Delhi in the hope that the Supreme Court would reverse its decision against ordering a enquiry into the incident that has sent shock waves throughout the country with the Pope expressing sadness over reports of anti-Christian assaults in India and European leaders seeking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention in the matter.

At least 36 people have died, thousands have been rendered homeless and dozens of Christians shrines vandalised in violence that erupted in the coastal Indian state after the killing of the Hindu religious leader.

The Supreme Court had Wednesday said “it does not feel the need to have a CBI inquiry, at the moment”.

Dominic said that since the decision was “for the moment”, the nun’s open admission and “narration of injustice under the state system would make the requirement felt”.