By Ajay Kumar Singh
Church workers and social activists have voiced shock and dismay at an Orissa High Court ruling to grant bail to two men accused of raping a nun.
“We’re aghast,” Bipra Charan Nayak, convener of the Kandhamal Survivors Association, said today.
On May 9, Justice Chittaranjan Das granted bail to Pandit Bishimajhi and Jatia Sahu saying he could not find enough evidence linking them to the alleged rape.
The nun was allegedly raped on August 25, 2008 during anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal district.
Bishimajhi and Sahu masterminded the 2008 violence including the nun’s rape, Nayak said.
The pair later went into hiding, with the police only catching up with them in June last year.
Nayak said Bishimajhi was the local secretary of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party) and is a close associate of local legislative assembly member, Karendra Majhi.
Bishimajhi and Sahu were “guiltier than their cronies, who were involved in the rape case,” Nayak added.
He criticized police “lethargy “as having helped the two get bail.
Sister Justine Senapati, an activist, said there are 15 cases against the two for organizing rapes, arson and killings.
“How could they get bail?” asked the member of the Sister of St. Joseph’s Annecy congregation.
Bishimajhi frightens local police, she said, recalling how the police did nothing despite repeated pleas for help from the raped nun.
Granting bail “will have a definite impact on the case as well as on justice and peace in the area,” she said.
Shibani Singh, vice-president of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese’s women wing, said the ruling shocked and frightened her.
“It is a blot on women’s dignity and justice,” she added.
The police have named 30 people in connection with the alleged rape and have arrested 22 of them.
Of the 22 accused, 17 have managed to get bail.