Eight persons have been detained today in connection with the gang-rape of a 72-year-old nun at a school-cum-convent in West Bengal's Ranaghat in the early hours of Saturday. The police are questioning them but there is no clarity if any of the eight is an actual offender.
Yesterday, the police had released CCTV footage of four dacoits who allegedly sexually assaulted the nun. The four were part of a gang of around six men who broke into the Convent of Jesus and Mary, gagged the lone security guard on duty and then sexually assaulted the nun around 4 am, the police said. The men also allegedly ransacked the church and fled with Rs. 8-9 lakh. The police had announced a reward of Rs. 1 lakh for any information leading to their arrest.
Sources in the government today said the police was close to solving the case, adding that it was probing several angles including the possible role of insiders in the incident - the school had sacked three security guards for dereliction of duty in December.
The Archbishop of Calcutta, Archbishop Thomas D'Souza, who has strongly condemned the incident, said, "The principal of the school, a nun, had received a threat call last week. Someone said she would be killed if she stepped out of the premises. She complained to the police and police should have given protection. They did not, apparently -- that's what I am hearing -- that she only filed a complaint and not an FIR. If the police had taken the complaint seriously, the entire incident could have been prevented perhaps."
According to sources at the school which could not be independently confirmed, the threat call was traced to a former student who had been expelled for sexually harassing a classmate.
The Archbishop said he was grateful to the Mamata Banerjee government for swift police action on the issue. "But I will only be satisfied when the culprits are caught and justice delivered," he said.
In a statement issued by her Trinamool government, the Chief Minister also said that "religious politics was being practised in the name of ghar wapasi" and that "religious fanaticism is on the rise". Sources in the Bengal government today said the 'ghar wapasi' remark was made in the larger context of intolerance and hate crimes.
The Archbishop of Calcutta, however, is not willing to jump to the "ghar wapsi" complaint as yet. "The matter should be investigated. It could have been dacoity and rape and nothing to do with conversion. Investigation, hopefully, will reveal the motive of the crime," Archbishop Thomas D'Souza said.
BJP leader Locket Chatterjee was not allowed to enter the school by the police. She and CPM leader Surya Kanta Mishra visited the hospital and met the superintendent to ask about the nun's health. "We give the government 48 hours to arrest the culprits," Surya Kanta Mishra said.
The issue of ghar wapasi - a campaign by hardliner Hindu groups to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism - has seen the Narendra Modi government come under fierce attack from the Opposition in the last few months. Opponents say that since coming to office, Mr Modi has failed to rein in affiliate groups of his party, the BJP, from suggesting that the government will follow a Hindu agenda. The allegations have been further exacerbated by a series of recent attacks on Christian institutions and churches in Delhi and a few other places.