Police charge 10 in Orissa rape case

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Local police have filed charges against 10 men for the rape of a Catholic nun during anti-Christian riots in Orissa state in August, but Church people expect more will be charged.

With police filing charges against the men on Jan. 29, "at least some justice can be expected," said Fr Alphonse Boliarsingh, vicar general of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese in the eastern state.

The priest noted that the police have "not yet arrested the main culprit," the one who actually raped the nun on Aug. 25, a day after Hindu extremists unleashed a wave of terror against Orissa Christians that lasted seven weeks. The violence claimed 60 lives and displaced 50,000 people, mostly Christians.

Fr Boliarsingh said that the police have assured they would arrest a few more people involved in the crime against the 28-year-old nun. "We expect the main culprit arrested soon," he added.

One of the nun's lawyers declined to comment on the charge sheet, since they "have not seen" the file. "We have applied for a copy. Only after studying it we can comment on the merit of it," Manas Ranjan Singh said on Jan. 30.

However, he described the filing of charges as "positive" and "a logical step." He added that the lawyers know the police filed the charges based on disclosures of eyewitnesses in the case.

According to Singh, the 10 men, arrested four months ago, were among about 90 people in a lineup that police arrainged in early December to allow the nun to pick out her attackers. The nun could identify only two among them, but did not see the rapist.

The lawyer also said the 10 men reportedly were charged with gang rape. Indian law, he explained, considers a person abetting rape just as culpable as the one committing the crime.

The nun's case made national headlines after she addressed a press conference in New Delhi on Oct. 25 and said she had no faith in the Orissa police investigation, since police did not help her when she was attacked.

At the press conference she said a group of about 50 men tore off her clothes, and that one of them raped her, assisted by several others. She recounted being paraded on the street, together with a priest, as several policemen watched without interfering.

A senior nun of her congregation continues to express lack of faith in the police investigation. "We do not think the case is going in the right direction," she said, noting that the rapist "is not arrested yet."

Another nun working in Orissa said the police have "not yet arrested the real culprits" in the case. "They may not do it at all, because people in authority are supporting" such crimes against Christians, she alleged.

Montfort Brother Thomas Thannickal, who accompanied the nun to the police lineup, shared similar sentiments. The charges aim to show "the police are working and the issue is not buried," in his view.

"Nothing much can be expected now. All these will be forgotten once the elections are over" in a few months, Brother Thannickal said. A federal parliamentary elections is scheduled for April, and a state assembly election for May.

Orissa is ruled by a coalition of a regional party and the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian people's party). The BJP is considered the political wing of groups trying to make India a Hindu theocracy.

The Orissa government had promised to contain the anti-Christian violence soon after it began on Aug. 24, but several groups have accused it of helping fanatics by restraining security forces.

Source: UCAN

Picture shows three of the men arrested for the rape of the nun with Indian policeman.