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Petition From Women’s Rights Activists to the Chief Minister of Orissa

by Ammu Abraham, 4 November 2008

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Mumbai, 4th November, 2008

From: Ammu Abraham
- Women’s Centre, 104B Sunrise Apts; Nehru Rd,
- Vakola, Santacruz (E), Mumbai - 400 055
- tele: 91-22- 2668 0403

To:
- Shri Navin Patnaik, Chief Minister of Orissa
- Navin Nivas, Aerodrome Rd, Bhubaneshwar, Dist. Khurda,
- Orissa - 751 001

Sub: State complicity in further oppression of the Catholic nun raped during the attacks on Christians in K Nuagaon, Orissa

Dear Chief Minister,

We have been informed by the media that you have ’suspended’ 5 policemen on duty during the rape of a Catholic nun in K Nuagaon, Kandhamal, Orissa on August 25th, 2008. Apparently they have been suspended for ’misconduct and negligence of duty’.

As women’s rights activists, and women in human rights and civil liberties, people’s rights activists, members of NGOs, civil society groups, activists for democracy and a secular India, we are enraged by your serial suspensions of your police personnel, and your absolute refusal to face upto the genocide of Christians in Kandhamal district of the state of which you are the Chief Minister.

It took you more than a month to admit that this 28 year old sister of a religious order was raped during an attack by an armed mob of 40 to 50 Hindutavadi men on her and a priest, Fr Chellan. When you finally did, you called it a ’shameful and savage act’ and promised ’stringent’ action. Then you ’stringently’ suspended the inspector - in - charge of the Baliguda police station. This was a month ago, in the first week of October.

Dear Chief Minister, it has taken you a further whole month to realize and to admit to the public that another five Orissa policemen were guilty of dereliction of duty when the sister was raped and when she was paraded in a barely clothed state along a public road to a market place in the afternoon.

Through September and October, you have allowed this derelict police force to harass this rape survivor by demanding that she co-operates with them in their "investigations" into her rape. Some of them have landed in Delhi and rushed about looking for her in odd places. She has also been intimidated by the women’s wing of the RSS, the Rashtriya Sevika Samiti who were calling for her arrest if she did not surrender herself to the investigations of the Orissa police.

Sir, we consider this a grave dereliction of duty on your part as the Chief Minister of Orissa. And who shall suspend you? Sir, are we all to accept once and for all, that not only is there discrimination against religious minorities in our country, but that their right to life can be violated with impunity? The violated nun had requested a CBI investigation, instead of one by the state police. She had expressed not only her lack of faith in the Orissa police as the investigating agency, she has expressed her fear of vidictiveness on their part.

After sister was brutally beaten, stripped, raped and paraded half naked, her statement says, that they reached a market place where there were about a dozen Orissa State Armed Police. (Please note, about a dozen and not five; and why should anyone have faith that of the five suspended now, any are from the dozen at the market?) This desparate woman tried to sit between two of them and asked them for protection from the mob which had been assaulting her and parading her. But these policemen sat stone faced and allowed the mob to recapture her and to parade her again till the Nuagaon police post. At this place too, a member of the mob stayed behind talking in a friendly manner to the police. The sister has no faith in them or their colleagues as investigators.

Now we find that these same would-be investigators have been busy trying to discredit the sister. According to them, she did not record their handing over her to the mob in her First Information Report and this proves that her statement to that effect is untrue. But it is definitely not uncommon for the police to try to sheild their colleagues and fail to note such episodes in the FIR. The Orissa police have also tried to say the FIR was lodged the day after the rape, insinuating delay. Sister has stated that she tried to give a full account in the FIR, but that the police warned her first of the ’consequences of filing an FIR’ and also asked her to restrict it to one page. She was raped in the afternoon, her medical examination was done in the evening; the police took her for registration of the FIR the next day, according to the sister. She was also abandoned by them halfway to Bhubaneshwar and asked to take public transport the rest of the way.

After that it took them nearly 40 days to collect the medical report, despite the doctor telephoning them to do so, and to start the ’investigations’ . Their conduct thereafter has not been that befitting a state investigating agency; they have conducted themselves instead as a force trying to clear their colleagues by discrediting and harassing a rape victim.

It is not surprising then that the sister refuses to ’cooperate’ in this process of investigation. But she must be empowered to fight this case. It is not unprecedented for a state government to agree to ask for a CBI investigation in such situations. The murders of all but one of a Dalit family in Khairlanji in Maharashtra is a relevant example, though the decision came rather late.

Dear Chief Minsiter, it is within your power to ask for and engage the C.B.I. in the investigations into this case; to help this sister to seek justice in the courts; to make it more probable that justice may be done in this case.

We request you, on behalf of this rape survivor, to do so immediately. We really hope that you will accept our request and act on it.

sincerely yours,

1. Ammu Abraham, Women’s Centre, Mumbai

2. Sandhya Gokhale, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai

3. Soma Marik, Nari Nirjatan Pratirodh Manch, Kolkatta

4. Madhuchanda Basu Karlekar, Sachetna, Kolkatta

5. Deepti Sharma, Saheli, Delhi

6. Sheba George, SahrWaru, Ahmedabad

7. N. B. Sarojini, S.A.M.A., Delhi

8. Chayanika Shah, Labia, Mumbai

9. Trupti Shah, Sahiyar, Vadodara

10. Aleyamma Vijayan, Sakhi, Kerala

11. Kerala Streevedi (network of 35 women’s organizations)

12. Sudha Verghese, Nari Gunjan, Madhya Pradesh

13. Akhila Khan, Awaaz-e-Niswan, Mumbai