Prayers in India for elderly nun who was gang-raped
PRAYERS were said at churches across India yesterday for an elderly nun who was gang-raped at a convent in an attack that has intensified anger over sexual violence and fuelled fears among beleaguered Christians.
The assault on the 71-year-old is the latest in a string of high-profile rapes in India and comes after a spate of attacks on churches that prompted Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi to promise a crackdown on religious violence.
The nun was attacked late Friday after a gang of half a dozen robbers broke into a convent school in eastern West Bengal state and ransacked the premises, police said.
The robbers gagged a security guard before assaulting the nun. They then entered the principal's room and stole cash, a laptop and a mobile phone, according to the police.
Four of the six attackers have been identified through closed-circuit-television footage and a reward of 100,000 rupees (S$2,200) is on offer for any leads on the suspects.
Five others have been detained for questioning, but a breakthrough has proved elusive so far.
Arnab Ghosh, a police superintendent who visited the convent near the town of Ranaghat, said the robbery appeared to have been carefully planned.
"CCTV footage showed that six men, aged between 20 and 30, scaled the boundary wall around 11.40pm, entered the school and disconnected the telephone lines," he told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"At least two of them were armed and the rest were carrying burglary tools. In the chapel, a holy scripture was found torn and...a bust of Jesus was broken."
Prayers were held yesterday in churches in West Bengal for the nun, who is recuperating at a hospital in Ranaghat, some 70km from the state capital Kolkata.
Thomas D'Souza, the archbishop of Kolkata, told AFP: "They not only committed a heinous crime, but they also vandalised the chapel...This is the first time such an attack has happened in India."
Christian leaders in Kolkata said they were planning to hold a candlelight vigil today, followed by a solidarity rally in support of the victim.
In the western state of Goa, which has a sizeable Christian population, the attack was condemned during the morning mass, while there were also prayers for the nun in the national capital New Delhi.
The gang rape has added to the sense of fear and dismay among the country's Christian minority, which has been deeply upset by recent attacks on churches.
"Even if you call it an isolated incident, the background and the atmosphere for such an attack had already been there, so you cannot simply ignore it as a one-off incident," Savarimuthu Sankar, a spokesman for the Delhi diocese, told AFP.