Targeting a member of a minority is easy, and easier still if the object of a reprehensible attack is a 71-year-old nun. That is precisely what happened in Nadia district of West Bengal last week when a group of dacoits barged into the Convent of Jesus and Mary and gang-raped the nun when she tried to resist them. No arrests had been till the time of going to press though some people have been detained. While chief minister Mamata Banerjee has condemned the incident, one of her ministers said “these incidents happen to give West Bengal a bad name”. In all, this is a hopeful sign that the West Bengal government is taking cognisance of this horrible reality and not taking recourse to mendacity by saying that all such instances are ‘fabricated’. Time was when West Bengal had a slightly better record than most other parts of the country as far as the safety of women was concerned, but the state is badly slipping on that count.
There are various reasons for rape and among them one could be is inter-community tension. In the Nadia case, this could have been the most potent one. When there is a dispute between two communities and the administration is found to be slack, one that has a greater local heft tries to browbeat the other by means of calculated violence. And in the process women become soft targets. The order to which the nun belonged had sought protection because it had apprehended such violence. But the fact that a case of robbery was also lodged there should make the arrest of the culprits easier.
Nuns have been periodically attacked since the 1990s, when the Jhabua rape case took place in Madhya Pradesh. Thereafter the Christian community has been repeatedly attacked in places as far-off as Gujarat and Odisha. And here it is to be noted that when the Jhabua rape case took place the Congress was in power in Madhya Pradesh and in Odisha the Kandhamal attacks took place under the watch of the BJD government. So it is futile to single out any party for such occurrences. And just as justice has been in Odisha, the West Bengal government should move expeditiously on the matter.