PUDR expresses outrage at the gang-rape of a 71 year old nun by a gang of “dacoits” inside a convent in Gangnapur village, Nadia district, West Bengal on 14th March 2015. The men reportedly raided and desecrated the convent before taking away 12 lakhs.Clearly, the motive was not merely to rob and decamp but to punish the school and the community through this horrendous gang-rape. In this connection, PUDR wishes to draw attention to the disturbing trend of attacks on Christians, including their institutions and places of worship, in recent times.
- On 15th March 2015, an under-construction church in Kaimri village, Hissar was vandalized and an idol of the Hindu god, Hanuman, was placed in its stead. The priest had been warned by the Bajrang Dal not to build the church. While promising strict action, the Haryana Chief Minister, ManoharLalKhattar, stated in the Assembly that the church was being built in an illegal colony and that the priest was involved in conversion.
- On 15th February 2015, the Holy Child Auxilium Convent, VasantVihar in Delhi was vandalized. This was the sixth church which had been attacked since December 2014 (Dilshad Gardens, Jasola, Rohini, Vikaspur, VasantKunj). Yet, the Delhi Police Commissioner reportedly told the Central Government that more thefts had occurred (but not publicized) in temples, gurdwaras and mosques than in churches.
- On 1st March 2015, members of the Hindu JagranManch allegedly attacked the farm of a Christian missionary in Alirajpur, Madhya Pradesh, on grounds that he was ‘converting’ Hindu tribals. In October 2014, the district administration had denied permission to the All India United Christian Front and Moksha Foundation from holding a convention at the same venue on grounds of communal tensions after a Christian boy eloped and married a Hindu girl in an AryaSamaj temple in Bhopal.
Such selective attacks are definitely not new. However, as against isolated incidents like the rape of two nuns in Gajraula (1990) or the murder of two priests in Gumla (1996), the spate of attacks assumed a new force after the BJP victory in 1998. In Orissa targeted killings began with the murders of Graham Staines and his two sons in 1999 and in Dangs(Gujarat), orchestrated attacks on Christian places of worship and homes in 1999 were witnessed. With the BJP assuming power at the Centre in 2014, the hate tide has assumed a new pitch which is visible in GharWapsi campaignsand in the deliberate targeting of Mother Teresa by the RSS supremo, Mohan Bhagwat.
Officially, the Government professes otherwise. In his official website, on 18th February, 2015, the Prime Minister stated, “We consider the freedom to have, to retain, and to adopt, a religion or belief, is a personal choice of a citizen”. Similarly, the Home Minister had assured a delegation which had met him after the desecration of the VasantKunj church that the government would not discriminate on the basis of religion, caste and community.
PUDR questions the Centre’s double-speak on the issues of religious freedom and gender justice. On the one hand, it professes religious tolerance; on the other, it refuses to challenge its state agencies, ministers and cultural leaders for rescinding from the same. Similarly,while it claims to safeguard the rights of all women, its religious leaders advocate control over women in the name of “community”. This horrific rape shows the role that sexual violence has played in targeting and brutalizing the religious freedom of the Christian community.This incident has also hollowed out the Centre’s fallacious ban decision on the recent documentary, India’s Daughter. If bans could prevent the culture of sexual violence, then how does the Centre explain this incident in which an elderly nunwas deliberately violated by a gang of men inside a convent?
While the West Bengal Government has agreed to a CBI investigation into the incident and the Central Government and the NHRC have sought reports of the same, PUDR believes that this incident is far more than a mere law and order problem; it is part of a communal pattern which is fast emerging in different cities and town under the aegis of the Hindu right. PUDR wishes to remind the Government that it has to uphold the fundamental right of freedom of religion for all citizens and right to equality and freedom for women. PUDR demands that the guilty be apprehended immediately and urges the Government to take all necessary steps to prevent any further incidents.