19 March 2014, The Tablet

Five-year wait for gang-raped nun to see three attackers jailed

Three of the nine accused in a case involving the rape of a nun and parading her semi-naked through the streets during anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal, eastern Orissa state, in August 2008 have been convicted.

On 14 March the trial court sentenced Mitu Patnaik, alias Santosh Patnaik, to 11 years’ imprisonment while Gajendra Digal and Saroj Badhei were sentenced to 26 months each for “outraging the modesty of the victim”.

Six of those charged were acquitted “for want of evidence”. One of the accused is still evading arrest. The violence left over 100 dead and some 56,000 Christians homeless.

"We are happy that the truth has been upheld," said Fr Santhosh Digal, spokesman for the local archdiocese of Cuttack Bhubaneswar. "But, this [conviction] is not enough. Several people were behind the parading and rape of the nun in public. They too should be taken to task."

Hindu nationalist media outlets had rubbished the rape of the nun, a member of the Congregation of Handmaids of Mary, as a concocted allegation.

The 28-year old nun, along with Fr Thomas Chellan, director of the Pastoral Centre in Kandhamal, were pulled out from a Hindu man’s house where they had taken shelter and attacked in a burnt church building before both of them were paraded semi-naked along the road in the presence of police at Naugam on 25 August 2008.

John Dayal, general secretary of the All India Christian Council, was highly critical of the length of time the case had taken to get to court. “From the beginning, the state itself seemed disinterested in pursuing the rapists and bringing them to justice,” he told UCAN news.

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