The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has ordered a probe into the role of two top functionaries of the Catholic Bihsops’ Conference of India (CBCI) in Khunti gang rape case involving Christian priests.
It may be recalled that five women members of a NGO’s drama party were allegedly raped at gunpoint after being kidnapped from a Christian Missionary school in Kochang in Jharkhand.
The NHRC has ordered the investigation following a letter from Legal Rights Observatory (LRO), a legal NGO that had lodged a serious complaint to the NHRC.
The LRO has accused the CBCI Secretary General Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas of ‘shielding’ Father Alphonso Aiend, one of the accused in the Khunti gang rape case.
Father Alphonso is one of the accused in the Khunti gang rape case and he is the head of the missionary school where these hapless girls were raped at gunpoint after being kidnapped by the outlawed naxal organisation People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI).
Cardinal Telesphore Toppo happens to be another accused of covering the complicity of the church in this event.
Mascarenhas and Toppo held a press conference after the arrest of Aiend, terming him innocent, and lashed out at the Jharkhand police. They gave a premature clean chit to the accused Catholic priest even before the conclusion of judicial procedure,” Joshi said.
CBCI however, refused to comment, saying it was not in the know of the NHRC inquiry. In his complaint, Joshi also accused the two of a “brazen attempt to pressurize investigating officers, indirectly intimidating the victims and interfering in the investigation” by way of the press conference and their public stand.
In response to the complaint, NHRC said on its website: “Direction issued by the Commission: Transmit the petitions to the concerned authorities calling for a report within four weeks. Action Taken: Action Taken Report Called for. Status on 7/7/2018: Response from concerned authority is awaited.”
In the Khunti gang rape, five women of an NGO’s drama crew had been allegedly raped at gunpoint after being abducted from a Christian missionary school in Kochang where they had gone to create awareness on migration and human trafficking on June 19.
Earlier, the National Commission for Women (NCW) had taken note of the dubious role played by Father Aiend the head of RC Mission School. The police had arrested Aiend after confirming that he had committed an “act of omission” by neither informing the cops nor helping the girls when they were being taken away by members of banned Naxal organisation People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI).
He was arrested for aiding and abetting the crime. Aiend had gone to buy vegetables from the same Kochang market, where he had earlier invited the girls to perform in his school.
The police have also confirmed that the Pathalgarhi (a growing sinister movement using tribals to plant stones and claim ‘sovereign’ political territory) leadership too had been complicit in the case as they had allegedly reached out to the Naxal leadership for teaching the crew a lesson, accusing the latter to be police informants.
According to the complaint made to NHRC, “CBCI, which is apex body of Catholics in India, secretary general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas and Cardinal Telesphore P Toppo have called a press conference and lashed out at Jharkhand police by terming gang rape accused Father Alphonse Alien as innocent. They awarded clean chit to accused Catholic priest before conclusion of judicial procedure. This is brazen attempt to put pressure on investigating officers and shameless attempt to shield accused.”
Joshi requested the NHRC to take urgent note of the CBCI press conference and summon Mascarenhas and Toppo for “indirectly intimidating five rape victims”.