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Rediff.com  » News » Ranaghat robbery and rape: 'Nuns had received threatening calls'

Ranaghat robbery and rape: 'Nuns had received threatening calls'

March 23, 2015 15:49 IST

Indrani Roy/Rediff.com visits Ranaghat in West Bengal's Nadia district, the scene of the horrific rape of a 72-year-old nun, and encounters a clueless police and a frightened Christian community.

Ranaghat's Convent of Jesus and Mary

Image: Ranaghat's Convent of Jesus and Mary where the horrific attack occurred. Photographs: Indrani Roy/Rediff.com

"Why is the world so sick and messed up?" asks Anirban Kundu, a school teacher in West Bengal's Nadia district.

"A nun who dedicated her life for the cause of humanity gets raped by someone young enough to be her grandchild," says Kundu. "It is a shame for all of us."

On the early hours of March 14, a gang of between 10 and 12 men robbed Ranaghat's Convent of Jesus and Mary, raped the 72-year-old Mother Superior, desecrated the convent's place of worship.

The nun was discharged from hospital on Friday, March 20. She is recovering in an undisclosed destination.

Residents of Ranaghat are upset that not a single arrest has been made 10 days after the incident. The police have detained about 18 people for interrogation.

Though West Bengal's Criminal Investigation Department has been probing the incident, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation last week.

What was the motive of the thugs who raided the convent?

Was robbery their sole aim? If so, why was the oldest nun raped and the place of worship defiled?

Was ghar wapsi the reason for the attack?

In an interview to Rediff.com last week, Professor Maria Fernandes, vice chairperson of the West Bengal Minorities Commission, had said, "There is enough evidence which indicates that ghar wapsi (conversion) was the main motive behind the Ranaghat incident".

"If robbery was their motive, the gang would have run away with the money," Professor Fernandes had argued.

Her statements were corroborated by members of the Christian communities living near the convent.

"Christians are being targeted all over the country ever since the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government came to power," says a man in his early 50s who did not want to be named for this report.

"Churches are being vandalised, but no action is being taken," he says, adding, "which is why we have every reason to believe that this incident was in continuation of what is happening elsewhere."

Though a section of Banerjee's Cabinet considers ghar wapsi the sole motive for the crime, some Trinamool Congress insiders have a differing view.

"Ranaghat is a TMC stronghold," a prominent TMC leader of the area told Rediff.com, "We have a TMC MP (Tapas Mandal) and a TMC MLA (Partha Sarathi Chatterjee). Therefore, it is not easy for some other political party to implant assailants inside such a well known convent."

Protest banners outside the convent

Image: Protest banners outside the convent.

Was the incident an act of revenge?

Some drastic changes took place in the convent in the last six months, insiders say.

With the appointment of a new principal, the convent's "somewhat slack discipline" was done away with.

Bunking classes or using mobile phones inside classrooms were banned and parents were barred from entering the convent premises at will.

"Such strictures perhaps rested heavy on some students and their parents and there was an air of discontent," one source told Rediff.com

"The nuns had registered a complaint with the local police about receiving threatening calls in late February," adds the source.

The threats followed soon after a student was expelled from the convent for posting obscene remarks on another student's Facebook page, the source told Rediff.com

The convent authorities also dismissed a security guard for lapses in duty and misbehaviour, says the source.

"Some anonymous callers had threatened the nuns with rape and murder following these incidents. Though the nuns had informed the police, the latter failed to react," the source adds.

Why did the police not take the complaints seriously?

Asked why the police did not act on the nuns's complaints, officers at both the Ranaghat police station and the Nadia district police wing refused to comment.

"Every case has a procedure and there is a method of dealing with any complaint," a senior police officer told Rediff.com, speaking on condition that he would not be identified by name for this report.

"We are looking for the sacked security guard and also cross checking the statements given by another security guard who was overpowered by the criminals to gain entry into the convent," the police officer added.

The police are interrogating this security guard to find out if he leaked crucial information about the convent to the thugs.

Did the criminals hail from north India and Bangladesh?

Based on the nuns's statements to the CID, the group of men spoke to each other in heavily accented Hindi and casually mentioned that they hailed from Punjab.

Some of the nuns mentioned that at least a couple of men spoke in Bengali tinged with an East Bengal accent.

The CID seized a SIM card from the convent. According to sources, some calls were made to Bangladesh using that SIM.

The CID now is trying to ascertain if Bangladeshis were among the marauders.

On March 20, the police detained two Bangladeshis on suspicion.

Rediff.com confirmed from North Dinajpur Superintendent of Police S W Reza's office that the men in their late 20s were detained for interrogation as they bore a resemblance to those captured on closed circuit television cameras at the convent.

The men hail from Bangladesh's Thakurganj district.

If the CID can provide evidence of Bangladeshi involvement, the CBI, which is now investigating the case, may approach Interpol for help, police sources told Rediff.com

Bangladesh is located 35 km away from Ranaghat.

Did land sharks have any role to play?

The CID is also trying to find out if land sharks were behind the heinous crime.

The convent, some reports claim, recently sold a large part of land at over Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million).

The police are probing if there was any pressure on the convent authorities to sell off another plot in the vicinity.

'It is an unfortunate incident'

A National Commission for Women team, led by Shamina Shafiq, visited the convent on Saturday, March 20, and slammed the state government for its failure to make a single arrest.

"It is a very unfortunate incident, it should not have happened," Shafiq told the media outside the convent.

"We are concerned as there is no arrest. There is CCTV footage available. They should have been arrested," she said.

Young protestors in Ranaghat

Image: Young protestors in Ranaghat.

'How could someone insult our Mother Superior?'

While the police are working hard to arrest the thugs, students of the convent are trying to deal with the shock.

Anirban Sarkar, Ripon Das, Kunal Sarkar, Class 11 students of the convent, told Rediff.com, "We feel intimidated and scared. How could someone insult our Mother Superior? It is shameful."

Who gheraoed the chief minister's car?

Not a single criminal has been arrested for the rape and robbery so far, but a first information report has been lodged against the group of people who gheraoed Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's convoy during her visit to the convent last week.

"Students of the convent were eager to speak to the chief minister and she had promised to meet them on her return from the hospital where the nun was being treated," Rajiv Biswas, one of the protesters, an undergraduate student, told Rediff.com

"But the chief minister did not keep her promise. She returned from the hospital and got into her car. That made us angry. We blocked the road," says Rajiv.

"A girl student was injured when she tried to stop the CM's car," he adds.

"The chief minister made baseless allegations that we were BJP and CPI-M cadres conspiring to give her government a bad name. One doesn't need to be part of any party to protest a rape, that too of a nun," says Rajiv.

'Christians are living in fear'

Though it is yet to be concluded if ghar wapsi or local issues were the motives behind the dastardly Ranaghat attack, Christians in the area says they live in fear.

"Christians are living in a state of fear," Father Saroj of the Guadalupe Church in Ranaghat told Rediff.com

"I shudder to think," he adds, "that the perpetrators of such monstrous crime are roaming free."

Indrani Roy/Rediff.com in Ranaghat