Rape Of Indian Nun Incites Kolkata Protest As Thousands Of Demonstrators Fight Against Sexual Violence In The Country

Indian activists participate in a rally organised by 'The Red Brigade - Bring Bangalore Back' to protest against the recent incidents of sexual abuse, molestation and rapes against women in Bangalore on July 20, 2014. The protestors demanded police take action against sexual offenders, child sexual abuse and rapists after several cases of sexual violence against women were registered in Bangalore in the last few days. AFP PHOTO/Manjunath Kiran (Photo credit should read Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images

Concerns about rape in India have been mounting recently, as protesters express outrage over the lack of prevention and prosecution of sexual attacks. And though there is increased awareness of rape in India's social consciousness, the assaults have yet to stop. A particularly heinous crime occurred this weekend in West Bengal, in which an elderly nun was raped by multiple men. On Monday, thousands participated in a march to protest rape in India after the weekend's gang rape brought a national problem of sexual assault back to the forefront.

On Saturday, a group of six to eight robbers struck a Christian missionary school, the Convent of Jesus and Mary School, in the Nadia district of eastern India, 80 kilometers northeast of Kolkata. According to Fox News, the bandits tied up the school's security guards with ropes early in the morning and then entered the nuns' room, where the women were asleep. When one nun attempted to set off an alarm and block the robbers' way, they took her to another room and raped her. Sources say she, along with two other others, were tied up. The nun who was attacked, whose age has been reported to be from 71 to 76 years old, is the oldest in the convent.

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The robbers escaped with several articles belonging to the school, including cash worth a few hundred rupees, a laptop, a cellphone, and a camera. Since the attack, eight men have been arrested in connection with the crimes, and two more were detained today, bringing the total of those detained to 10. Images of four men were captured on the school's CCTV, but according to TIME, none of those arrested resemble the suspects caught on camera.

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Outrage has spread throughout the country after this attack. Government agencies have condemned the violence and promised to carry out justice on the perpetrators. Archbishop Thomas D'Souza of Kolkata said:

We will identify the accused as we have the CCTV footage stored with the convent. The guilty must be punished. Such incidents have never happened in the history of our state.
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D'Souza did not emphasize the attack as part of a pattern of sexual assault. Rather, he stressed the uniqueness of the attack, emphasizing the fact that the victim was a nun.

I am shocked. Such an attack on an elderly sister is a rare incident, first time in Bengal and possibly the first time in India. It is deeply distressing.

Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee told press:

No matter where the culprits are, strongest action will be taken against them. We are fully committed to that. We have sent our team for investigation with all necessary equipment and will catch the culprits soon. People who commit such crimes are not humans. Our sentiments are with the victim, who is like our mother. The culprits are a disgrace to the society.
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On Monday, as students and civilians gathered to protest the rape, Banerjee travelled to Ranaghat to visit the nun in the hospital. After visiting the victim, who is in serious condition and has already undergone surgery for her injuries, Banerjee said:

The sister is doing well. Some arrests have been made but we are looking for the mastermind. The borders are being monitored and if they have gone to other states, we will make arrangements to catch them.
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As Banerjee ordered a Crime Investigation Department investigation into the rape, thousands of protesters marched through Kolkata holding signs demanding the end of the epidemic of sexual assault that has plagued India. One nun, identified as Sister Joyce, told the BBC:

We feel we have come out in solidarity with the sisters in Ranaghat. We belong to a Catholic church, and we are brothers and sisters. When something like this happens, we come together, we mourn, we are pained. This is not the way to take revenge if they have any differences in opinion. This is not the way to act upon. We feel very pained about this brutality that is committed.
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Students marching held signs that said, "We want justice — arrest the rapist," "No political flag! Just humanity!," and "Save women, save India." The march included protesters of all faiths. Students lit candles, sang hymns, and recited prayers, though the protest was largely silent.

Many protesters felt that Christians in India are particularly vulnerable to attack. Father Savari Muthu, spokesman for the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, told NBC News:

We have to raise our voice against the atrocities. Christians will not tolerate this humiliation.
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The attack comes after a rash of incidents of violence and vandalism towards Christians in India, mostly in Delhi, since December. But the message of the protesters is clear: No matter what your religion, the sexual violence has to end.


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