The rapists apparently asked for the “senior-most” among the nuns at a convent school in a small West Bengal town before picking the elderly sister superior and gang-raping her , investigators said on Sunday, pointing to a revenge motive as the horrific crime rocked the nation.
Officers of the state’s criminal investigation department were exploring this angle after learning that the nuns were recently threatened by unidentified people.
“Who is the senior-most here?” an officer said, quoting witnesses at the missionary-run school in Nadia district located over 75km from Kolkata where suspected robbers barged in early on Saturday and raped the 71-year-old nun and took away Rs 12 lakh kept in an almirah.
“We have come to know that the sisters were threatened some days ago and they had informed about it to police. At the same time, we were yet to understand why the culprits vandalised the institution apart from looting cash and raping an elderly nun,” an officer said.
“After looting the money they forced a guard to call the sisters. As soon as a nun opened the door, they stormed in and demanded for the senior-most sister. As the principal and other sisters pointed to the oldest nun … she was taken to another room and raped.”
Police were looking for a school guard who was recently sacked while eight men have been detained and questioned. No arrests were made so far, though still images of the suspects from CCTV footage have been circulated to the media and police stations across the state and a Rs 1 lakh reward was announced for information on them.
Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi appealed to people to help the investigators as political parties, religious groups and civil society condemned the incident in one voice amid an outpouring of shock across Kolkata. “Society should co-operate with police, helping them with information on the culprits,” he said.
Sunita Kumar, spokesperson of The Missionaries of Charity, expressed shock and wondered why someone would attack nuns, while the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Calcutta has decided to take out a rally on Saturday.
State women’s commission chief Sunanda Mukhopadhyay blamed police inaction for the barbaric incident. “Police should have taken action when the school told them about receiving threats,” she said after visiting the convent on Sunday.