NEW DELHI, India, MAY 3, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Ten of the 25 men accused of the 1998 rape and robbery of nuns in a convent have been sentenced to life in prison, a judgment praised by the Catholic Bishops´ Conference of India.
The District Court of Jhabua also rewarded two- to three-year prison terms to seven other accused of looting at the convent in Navapada, in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. The judgment was delivered April 28.
Archbishop Oswald Gracias, secretary-general of the bishops´ conference, said Wednesday that the judgment had increased the faith of the people in the country´s judicial system and its moral stature.
Bishop George Anathil of Indore, whose area includes Jhabua, said justice has been done to the nuns who were victims of the heinous attack. The nuns are now working in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
The bishop noted that none of the accused in the rape case was a Christian. “Vested interests had been proclaiming time and again that half of the accused were Christians,” he said.
The incident took place Sept. 23, 1998. On what is now known as the “Black Day of the Mission in India,” the Sisters of Preetisaran Seva Kendra in Jhabua were raped and robbed. The Church and various organizations protested against the incident and the police arrested suspects within two days.
Of the 25 charged, 23 were arrested and sent to jail. Two of them are still at large. Six men have been acquitted in the case.
Bishop Anathil cautioned the Christian institutions and the Church personnel working in the area to take precautionary measures to avoid any further attacks by the Bhils — all the accused belong to the Bhil tribe — given the community´s tendency to take revenge.