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Women’s March Seeks Justice For Raped Nun

11/24/08 CHENNAI, India (UCAN) — More than 2,000 people from various religions, most of them women, marched in this southern Indian city on Nov. 22 to condemn anti-Christian violence in Orissa state.

Film actors, writers, students and Catholic nuns braved rains as they marched to demand the Central Bureau of Investigation probe the rape of a nun during the violence right-wing Hindu groups orchestrated in Orissa, eastern India. The federal bureau is the country’s premier investigating agency.

During an Oct. 24 press meet in New Delhi, the nun had expressed her lack of faith in the Orissa state police, after the Supreme Court had rejected her demand for a CBI probe three days earlier.

The nun, her face covered, recounted to reporters how she and a priest were assaulted and she was raped in Orissa on Aug. 25, a day after Hindu fanatics unleashed a seven-week reign of terror on Christians there. Church sources say the violence left at least 59 people dead and 50,000 homeless.

The Nov. 22 march was organized by 28 women’s groups under the Women’s Initiative for Secular India (WISI), based in Chennai (formerly Madras), the Tamil Nadu state capital, 2,095 kilometers south of New Delhi.

Before the rally began, Salesian Archbishop Malayappan Chinnappa of Madras-Mylapore thanked protesters for their support and urged them to be “vigilant against such violence and hatred,” which he said could destroy the nation.

Kicking off the march, Salma Rokaiah, a Muslim writer, termed the nun’s rape a great affront to the dignity of women in India and urged every woman to protest it. She said the march also aimed to give moral support to all victims of the Orissa violence.

Wearing black ribbons and carrying flags and placards, the marchers shouted slogans condemning the violence and urging government at all levels to protect the rights of minorities, women and children in Orissa. They also demanded a ban on right-wing Hindu groups that have attacked Christians and spread hatred among communities.

Meena Sukumar, a protester, expressed hope the rule of law would prevail in Orissa and the raped nun would get justice. “Raping a woman is inhuman, and raping a nun who is serving the poor and needy is monstrous,” the Hindu woman told UCA News.

Another Hindu protester, Sudarvilli, said she joined the march to show solidarity with the Orissa victims. The college student expressed hope the truth would ultimately triumph. She and her friends wore masks and black dresses marked like skeletons to remind people about the evil of violence.

Auxilia Peter, a rally convener, confirmed its main goals were to show solidarity with the victims and demand justice for them. “Women are always the victims of violence, and in Orissa women have also been the victims,” the Catholic woman lawyer said.

WISI also plans to educate the public about an anti-communal violence bill pending in the Indian parliament, Peter added.

It earlier organized two other events to garner support for the Orissa victims — a signature campaign and a candlelight vigil.

Rally organizers said the alliance was formed on Nov. 1 to promote communal harmony and secularism in response to growing intolerance and hatred in India.