Orissa victim was gang-raped before being burnt alive, says priest

October 4th, 2008 - 11:41 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 4 (IANS) Rajani Majhi, a 20-year-old Hindu, was gang-raped before being burnt alive by a mob at the church-run orphanage in Orissa’s Bargarh district where she worked, says a senior priest. They mistook her for a Christian.”I am willing to testify in any court of law,” T.V Peter, procurator of the Sambalpur diocese in the western part of the state, told IANS on phone. The incident took place Aug 25 as anti-Christian violence engulfed the state.

“Some policemen and locals were witness to the atrocities by a mob led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal at the orphanage in Padampur village in Bargarh district. I went to the spot immediately afterwards and spoke to the witnesses.

“The mob thought she was a Christian girl but actually she was a Hindu and was adopted by a childless couple. She was working in the orphanage,” said Peter.

Instead of rescuing the victims, the policemen remained mute spectators, alleged the priest.

Rajani was a student in Padampur Women’s College and worked at the orphanage to finance her education. The orphanage, which was set ablaze by the mob, was meant for children of leprosy patients.

“Almost two years back, she joined the orphanage run by Jesuit priest Father Edward Secuira of our diocese to continue her studies,” said Peter.

He related the sequence of events that started around 1.30 p.m when Secuira was resting in an ante-room, adjacent to the boys’ hostel in the orphanage.

“A group of attackers kept banging on his door. When he opened it, he was immediately dragged to the courtyard and brutally beaten up.

“Seeing Father Secuira being hit, Rajani and some children from the orphanage began running for their lives. But the mob did not let Rajani escape and gang-raped her,” Peter said.

“By that time, Father Secuira was locked in his room. All he could hear was Rajni’s plaintive cries, ‘Save me Father, I am spoilt now. They are going to kill me’,” Peter related to IANS.

The mob left two hours after Rajani had been burnt to death. Secuira’s bed had also been set ablaze by the mob, Peter said.

Asked what he planned to do now, Peter repeated his offer to testify in court, as “not many were likely to come forward to testify against the murderous mob especially in the present circumstances when the atmosphere is vitiated”.

“The people are still being persecuted. We don’t have any trust in the government,” he added. Anti-Christian violence flared up in Orissa after the murder of VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati in the state’s Kandhamal district Aug 23. The violence continues today, with extreme Hindu groups blaming Christians for the death, a charge the Christians have denied repeatedly.

Rajani’s gang-rape and murder came on the same day as a 28-year-old nun was gang-raped in Kandhamal district and a priest who tried to save her was beaten up and doused with kerosene before both were paraded naked, while a dozen policemen watched. Only on Friday did the state government order a probe into this incident, over a month after the nun gave her complaint in writing.

(T.G. Biju can be contacted at biju.t@ians.in)

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