11/19/2008, 00.00
INDIA

Sister who was raped gives deposition to police, but will not return to Orissa

Sister Meena and Fr. Thomas Chellan have recounted the violence they suffered on the night they were assaulted by Hindu fundamentalists. This sister remains in Delhi, and will not participate in the "American-style" lineup scheduled today in Baliguda. Ministers of the central government are meeting with Christian families from Orissa living in refugee camps.

Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - About three months after their assault, Sister Meena Barwa and Fr. Thomas Chellan have told investigators about the violence they suffered on the night of last August 25, during the first days of attacks against Christians.

Their statements were recorded by the anti-crime section of the Orissa police, who came to Delhi to meet with the sister and priest. Inspector general Arun Ray confirms that the sister and priest - she was the victim of sexual violence, and both suffered brutal beatings - gave a deposition between 5:00 and 7:30 p.m. on November 18, in the presence of a team of investigators who had come from Orissa for that purpose.

The sister, still dealing with the violence she suffered, has repeatedly said that she does not want to go back to Baliguda, in the district of Kandhamal, where today, November 19, an "American-style" lineup is scheduled to proceed with the identification of those responsible for her rape. The sister has always maintained her firm refusal, saying she does not trust the police of Orissa, some of whom she accuses of covering for those who perpetrated the violence.

Raphel Cheenath, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, says that during the meeting between the religious and the policemen from Orissa in Delhi, they "supplied their version of the events." The bishop also explains that the sister cannot participate in the "American-style" lineup scheduled for today because the trip is too long and she still seems to be suffering from shock.

On November 18, a delegation of ministers from the central government went to Orissa to visit the places that were the theater of the massacres against Christians: it was composed of agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, social justice minister Meira Kumar, and the minister for tribal affairs, P.R. Kyndiah. The ministers met with families living in refugee camps in Raikia: these expressed their desire to go home, while denouncing the persistent climate of violence and persecution that makes this impossible.

The government delegation finally visited the Jalespata ashram in Tumudibandha, where the assassination of Hindu fundamentalist leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four followers took place, used as the pretext for the pogrom against the Christians.

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