NEW DELHI —
A 47-year-old nun working as a nurse at a medical center run by Christian missionaries in the central Indian city of Raipur was sexually assaulted by unidentified men Saturday.
After a medical investigation, police in Raipur's Chhattisgarh state said the nun from Kerala had not actually been raped, with police calling it a case of "attempt to rape." Police say some suspects have been detained for questioning.
Christian community leaders said circumstantial evidence suggests the nun had been raped or gang-raped in her convent room. “We are 100 percent sure that the nun was raped yesterday. There cannot be any dispute over this fact. And it appears to be part of the ongoing anti-Christian hate campaign across the state,” Arun Pannalal, president of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum told VOA.
The Catholic Bishop's Conference of India said the attack, following others targeting religious minorities in India, pose serious questions about their safety in India.
The alleged attack came three months after the rape of a 71-year-old nun at a missionary convent in West Bengal.
Attacks Against Christians
Pannalal, who took part in a Raipur protest rally with thousands of others Sunday, said the rape of the elderly nun in March and Saturday's attack were aimed at desecrating the spirit of the Christian community.
“By targeting Christian nuns in rape they are seeking to inflict maximum amount of humiliation and pain on the community,” Pannalal said. “We are not sure who committed this heinous attack on the nun. But we suspect that Hindutva activists might have had a role in this attack."
Hindu right wing activists have long accused Christian missionaries of forcibly converting Hindus to Christianity, something the activists say they will not allow. Hindu extremists have physically attacked church workers and missionaries, and destroyed property, including many churches that were set on fire or destroyed in other ways.
In parts of Chhattisgarh, Hindu activists have unilaterally banned all Christian activities since last year.
Modi Calls for Intervention
Following the spate of hate attacks against Christians, some months ago Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised intervention to “preserve and promote the religious freedom” of religious minorities.
But some religious leaders say attacks against Christians across the country have not diminished with some lawmakers and members of Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) indulging in hate speeches targeting Christian and Muslim minorities in India. Chhatisgarh state is also ruled by the BJP.
John Dayal, spokesman of New Delhi-based United Christian Forum for Human Rights, accuses Modi of badly needing his hawkish Hindu party colleagues and their aggressive supporters to consolidate his political base among the Hindu masses.
“For this reason Mr. Modi has not acted against the venomous hate speeches delivered by the leaders of his party and its allies, and it has set up the environment where desecration of church, rape of nuns and general intolerance have become possible, or even inevitable," said Dayal.