Shops, schools close in India town over nun gang-rape

KOLKATAKOLKATA: Shops and schools in a town in eastern India where an elderly nun was gang-raped closed on Tuesday in protest over perceived police inaction, as anger mounts over the “inhuman” crime, business owners said.

Police have detained around 10 people for questioning but no arrests have been made over the Friday attack on the nun, aged in her 70s, the latest in a string of high-profile rapes in India.

The nun was attacked after a gang of half a dozen robbers broke into a convent school near the town of Ranaghat in West Bengal state and ransacked the premises, police say.

“We have called for the shutdown of businesses and shops in this town to support the nun … and the immediate arrest of the culprits,” said Samiran Paul, a spokesperson for the local business association.

“We can’t imagine such inhuman torture on an elderly nun who devoted her life to the service of humanity. It’s a shame to us,” the cloth merchant told AFP.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday expressed deep concern over the attack, along with a separate incident of vandalism of a partly built church in the northern state of Haryana on Sunday.

“PMO (prime minister’s office) has asked for immediate report on facts & action taken regarding the incidents,” he said in a tweet.

A series of attacks on churches in recent months prompted Hindu nationalist Modi to promise a crackdown on religious violence and freedom of worship for all faiths.

Modi had been heavily criticised for not speaking out earlier against religious violence and has also faced flak for remaining silent about a spate of mass “re-conversions” of minority Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.

Rallies and prayer sessions have been held across India since the rape, while West Bengal’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, faced hundreds of angry protesters late on Monday when she travelled to meet the nun in Ranaghat.

Teacher Sriparna Dutta said government schools were shuttered in the area for the day because “we are all so shocked”.

Police superintendent Arnab Ghosh said security has been stepped up “in the town and its outskirts to avert any untoward incident during the shutdown”.

The incident also adds to a grim record of sexual assaults in India, which this month banned a documentary about a December 2012 gang-rape that sparked domestic and international outrage.

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