Church leaders in India have said an inquiry ordered into the case of a young nun allegedly raped in Kandhamal province, amid anti-Christian violence in the state of Orissa, had been instituted only because of media criticism of government inaction in the case.
Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Bhubaneswar, whose diocese covers Kandhamal, said that what he described as belated action by the government of Orissa demonstrated it had been "embarrassed by media reports".
The alleged rape of the nun in Konjamendi took place on 25 August, when a mob attacked the 30-year-old nun and a local priest, the Rev. Thomas Chellan. The mob, said by Christians to be Hindu extremists, then paraded the priest naked through the streets together with the nun in torn clothes.
The government launched its inquiry on 3 October, after the case had been in newspaper headlines for several weeks. The government also suspended the chief of the local police station at Konjamendi pending an investigation into "dereliction of duty".
Chellan said that the police chief had led a team of fellow officers, who stood by as the priest and nun were taken through the streets.
The Press Trust of India news agency reported that three youths from Kerala had been arrested on 11 October in connection with the alleged rape; this had brought the total number of arrests in the case to eight.
The news agency said the nun had made a written complaint the day after the incident, and had also undergone a medical examination. Church officials say the woman is now having trauma counselling in New Delhi.
"I wonder why it took so long for the government to act in this case," Church of North India Bishop Samson Das of Cuttack told Ecumenical News International on 9 October.
"It looks like an attempt to cover up gross government failure," Das said.
The recent violence in Orissa broke out following the killing of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati in August. A Maoist leader is reported to have claimed responsibility for the killing but some Hindu groups say it was a Christian conspiracy, as the 85-year-old slain monk had been campaigning against conversion to Christianity in Kandhamal, where he was based.
(c) Ecumenical News International
Photo : WORLD NEWS