A conspiracy unravels

source:? Daily Pioneer, Aug 3, 2010

Sandhya Jain

Was
the alleged rape of a nun, following the assassination of Swami
Laxmanananda Saraswati and four sanyasis in Kandhamal on Krishna
Janmasthami, August 23, 2008, an afterthought by missionaries targeted
by enraged Hindus? Was it a planned vengeance, aimed at garnering the
international spotlight and forcing Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to
break his alliance with the BJP, which empathised with the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad?s anger at the murder of its octogenarian leader??


The questions are
legitimate given Fr Thomas Chellan?s admission in court on July 26 that
he did not report the alleged rape of the nun when filing the first
information report with the police on August 26, 2008. The Baliguda
Catholic Church pastor, a key witness in the case, admitted during
cross-examination before Cuttack district and sessions judge Bira
Kishore Mishra that he had not mentioned the alleged rape in the FIR
filed a day after the incident is said to have occurred. His complaint
caused the arrest of 23 people.

The alleged rape of the
29-year-old nun from Sambalpur is said to have occurred on August 25 in
Kandhamal district, a day after agitated Hindus went on the rampage to
protest the gunning down of Swami Laxmanananda and his disciple-monks in
the precincts of his own ashram. Swami Laxmanananda had previously
escaped several attempts on his life and had received death threats from
missionaries infuriated by his anti-conversion activities.

The
nun worked at Divyajyoti Pastoral Centre at K Nugaon block. She was
reportedly dragged out of a retired head clerk?s house by 40-odd armed
men who chanted ?Bharat Mata ki Jai,? taken to the office of an
NGO, Jan Vikash, where one man allegedly raped her. At that time, 12
policemen of the Odisha State Armed Police were camping in a school in
front of the NGO?s office. The nun identified the main accused as
Santosh Patnaik, alias Mitu.

Fr Chellan was reportedly beaten and
paraded half-naked on the road the same day. He identified two accused
in court as being part of the mob that attacked his church, but had
failed to identify either man during the test identification parade held
at Choudwar jail last year. The case was initially committed to a
fast-track court in Kandhamal that was trying all riot cases, but was
transferred to a sessions court in Cuttack after the nun petitioned that
she felt unsafe in Kandhamal. (This is now the standard refrain in all
anti-Hindu cases; Gujarat?s former Minister Amit Shah is only the latest
victim.)

Interestingly, Dr Chotray Marandia, who first treated
the nun after the alleged assault-cum-rape, testified on August 28 that
she had only complained of swelling on her face. ?I only treated the
swelling on her face and she did not complain of anything else,? he
replied when asked by defence lawyers about other injuries on her body.
So we have no evidence of rape.

The then block development
officer, Mr BB Mishra, testified that he had accompanied the nun and
priest to the local police station to file their complaint about the mob
attack. Both thus had full official protection while filing the
complaint, and cannot claim that the police did not record the FIR
properly, or that the rape charge was ignored by the police. These
testimonies are damning.

That the rape is most likely a
fabrication can be seen from the nervousness of the prosecution.
Earlier, her lawyers had sought a month?s time for the nun to appear
before the court. This is suspicious to say the least, but fits in with
the church?s hiding the nun from the local people and producing a veiled
woman with a thick Malayalam accent at a Press conference in Delhi.
Interestingly, last Saturday the nun failed to identify the key accused
at a test identification parade.

The Church-prosecution
embarrassment has been aggravated by the June 12 arrest of Pandit
Bishimajhi for allegedly plotting to kill the nun and priest to prevent
them from testifying against the mob. It was alleged that Bishimajhi led
several mob attacks, one of which stripped and paraded the nun and Fr
Chellan, and is thus complicit in the fast-disintegrating rape case.

It
may be appropriate to put the anti-missionary violence in context. The
Kandhamal violence erupted after the murder of Swami Laxmanananda, whose
tireless efforts to uplift the tribal communities and protect their
religion and culture against aggressive proselytisation infuriated the
evangelists and Maoist goons (mostly converts). The Swami was severely
injured in an attack on Christmas eve in 2007, and had then accused a
Congress MP and World Vision chief for the attack. He alleged a nexus
between Maoist terrorists and missionaries; which is why when Maoists
claimed responsibility for the killings, public ire was directed at the
missionaries. Certainly the murders had a purely religious motivation;
Odisha has in recent years seen an influx of rich American Baptists for
soul-harvesting purposes.

Beginning on December 26, 1970, Swami
Laxmanananda was attacked eight times before he was finally struck down
by AK-47-wielding assailants in 2008, according to the fact-finding
commission chaired by Additional Advocate-General of Rajasthan, GS Gill.
Soon after the multiple murders in the ashram, the State police
arrested World Vision employee Pradesh Kumar Das while escaping from the
district. Later, two men, Vikram Digal and William Digal, were arrested
from the house of a local militant Christian, Lal Digal, at Nugaon;
they admitted having joined a group of 28 assailants. Then, in July
2009, a Maoist couple, Surendra Vekwara and Ruby, also allegedly
involved in the killings, surrendered to the Odisha Police. One does not
know how the State Government intends to prosecute the cases against
these persons, especially as the sensational rape case is silently
falling apart.

However, as I have previously argued, the murder
of Swami Laxmanananda closely resembles the murder of Swami Shanti
Kaliji Maharaj in Tripura in August 2000. The latter was also shot in
his own ashram by gun-wielding goons after several dire warnings against
his anti-conversion activities in the tribal belt were ignored. Swami
Laxmanananda?s murder prompted Biju Janata Dal MP Tathagata Satpathy to
insist that there was an urgent need for an anti-conversion legislation
as aggressive proselytisation was hurting the social fabric.

Swami
Laxmanananda Saraswati had, just before his murder, demanded a national
debate on conversions and an end to the foreign funding of NGOs. This
is an urgent imperative.

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