THIRTY-SIX hours after the alleged rape of a 71-year-old nun at a missionary school in Ranaghat in West Bengal’s Nadia district, none of the suspects has been held despite CCTV footage identifying them. Police have not been able to establish the identities of the attackers either.
Nadia SP Arnab Ghosh said they had detained eight persons and were interrogating them, refusing to reveal more.
Another senior police official said that of the eight detainees, one appeared to be part of those captured on CCTV. Photographs of the suspects have been sent to BSF outposts near the border too in order to ensure they didn’t escape.
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Around 12 armed men had raided the Christian missionary school in the early hours of Saturday and allegedly raped a 71-year-old nun and assaulted two others. The gang is also alleged to have desecrated the school’s chapel.
The condition of the nun who was said to have been raped is now stable.
Archbishop of Kolkata Thomas D’Souza said there was a growing sense of insecurity among the 600-odd Christian families in the area. Pointing out that the closest police station was 6 km away, he demanded that a police post be set up nearby.
READ MORE: Nun Rape Case: Trinamool, BJP pass the buck
About the church attack being linked to previous incidents in Delhi and Bangalore, D’Souza said, “Anything is possible. Nothing can be ruled out, but until police make some arrests, nothing can be said for sure as well.”
Nadia District Magistrate P B Salim denied there had been any request for security by school authorities. “Police intervention had been sought for a problem which was immediately looked into. But there was no requisition to provide security personnel,” he said.
Christians of the area who came to the school to express solidary on Sunday said they were nervous. Leena D Rozario, a senior member of the area’s parish committee, said their children studied in the same school and could be the next target.
Ranaghat — about 200 km from Kolkata — has a large concentration of Christians, mostly converts from Hinduism.
“There are so many unanswered questions. Why would the offenders, after looting the money, go on to vandalise the church or rape a septuagenarian nun? And when the men can be identified on CCTV, why have there been no arrests?” said Rozario.
Herod Mullick, state working president of the Bangiya Christiya Pariseba (state forum of all Christian denominations, east and northeast partner of All India Christian Council), said the attack appeared part of a trend. “It is evident that the attackers had a motive other than robbing the place. There are similarities to incidents in Delhi and Bangalore,” he said.
Actor Locket Chatterjee, who recently joined the BJP, and leader of Opposition, the CPM’s Suryakanta Mishra, were not allowed to enter the church premises, with police saying they did not have the required permission.
An angry parish priest, Suraj Biswas, said they wouldn’t allow any politician in. “If they want to express solidarity, they should come without a party flag. There will be a candlelight march tomorrow and on Wednesday, a rally of members from several minority communities, at Esplanade,” he said.
BJP district president Kalyan Kumar Nandi said fingers shouldn’t be pointed at the party for the attack. “We demand the strictest punishment for whoever responsible irrespective of their political affiliation. If need be, a CBI probe should be held. Some leaders are trying to portray it as a deed of the BJP and RSS. I want to tell them that there are a huge number of Christians living peacefully in places like Goa and Chhattisgarh.”
National Institute for Gender Justice chairperson Sreerupa Mitra Chaudhury, who visited the attacked church, said she would be giving a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “How can so many persons enter the place and no patrolling car notice it? The state police is not capable of an inquiry. I would recommend an inquiry by a central agency,” she said.
The attack is reported to have lasted over three hours, from 1:30 am to about 5 am. According to sources, the gang first ransacked the school office before breaking into the convent.