Officers warn Christians they could face false charges or death if they do not withdraw case.
KARACHI, Pakistan, January 18 (CDN) — Pakistani police are threatening the father of an 18-year-old Christian man whom officers raped, killed and threw into a sewer last week, according to area Christians.
Christian residents of Akhter Colony, Karachi who pulled the body of Waqas Gill from the sewer on Jan. 11 protested an alleged police cover-up by placing the corpse in the middle of a street and chanting slogans against officers of Mehmoodabad police station. They said local officers kidnapped and sodomized Gill before shooting him dead on Jan. 9.
The victim’s father, Pervez Gill, told Compass that four policemen on Jan. 6 abducted his son without a warrant and without making any charges. He said higher level police officials took notice of their Jan. 11 protest and reluctantly filed charges against the four policemen, two of them identified as Muhammad Amir Butt and Muhammad Adeel Khatak of the Mehmoodabad police station in Jamshaid Town, Karachi. The First Information Report is No. 38/11 under the murder laws of Section 302 of Pakistan Penal Code.
“Police are now threatening us and other Christians of Akhter Colony that we have to retract the charges,” Gill said, nearly in tears. “Police registered a case against the culprits, but they have not filed it under the proper parts of the section, which weakens the case, and police have done everything possible to save their fellow policemen.”
Gill said this police bias was the reason the other two officers named were still at large, with no action taken against them.
Local Christian protestors said Muslim policemen unduly delayed an autopsy to protect fellow officers, on the assumption that Christians were socially and financially weak in the predominantly Sunni Islamic country. After the Jan. 11 protest, however, an autopsy was undertaken and showed that Gill was subjected to sexual assault, tortured, shot dead with police revolver bullets and thrown into a waste drainage line, they said.
Sources said at least six other area Christian youths had been similarly killed.
“I don’t expect any justice from the investigating officers of the same police station whose police constables kidnapped, sodomized and snatched the life of my son,” Gill said.
He said that police have threatened to kill them or charge them with false crimes if they do not withdraw the charges against the officers. Under Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws, insulting Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, is punishable by death.
Officers at the Mehmoodabad police station and other stations refused repeated requests for comment on the case.
Christians make up only 2.45 percent of the Pakistani population of 184.8 million, which is nearly 96 percent Muslim, according to Operation World.
Christian Legislator Tahir Naveed Chaudhary condemned the killing, stating that Sindh Province police have started to imitate Punjab Province police’s discrimination and delays in autopsies and filing of charges against those who attack Christians.
“Day by day, crimes against Christians are increasing, and rape or abuse of Christian women and girls has become a commonplace thing,” Chaudhary said. “Life of any of the Christians at any place in Pakistan is not safe.”
Report from Compass Direct News
Manoj Pradhan arrested; three more cases pending against Hindu nationalist.
NEW DELHI, September 10 (CDN) — A Hindu nationalist legislator was arrested yesterday after a court pronounced him guilty of playing a major role in the murder of a Christian during anti-Christian carnage in Orissa state’s Kandhamal district in August 2008.
The Fast Track Court II in Kandhamal convicted Manoj Pradhan of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the murder of a 30-year-old Christian, Bikram Nayak, who succumbed to head injuries two days after an attack by a mob in the Raikia area of Budedi village on Aug. 25, 2008.
Judge Chitta Ranjan Das sentenced Pradhan to six years of rigorous imprisonment for “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code and imposed a fine of 15,500 rupees (US$335) for setting houses ablaze.
Pradhan, who contested and won the April 2009 state assembly election from jail representing Kandhamal’s G. Udayagiri constituency, was not initially accused in the police complaint in Nayak’s murder, but his role emerged during the investigation, according to The Hindu.
One of the primary suspects in violence that followed the assassination of Hindu nationalist leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on Aug. 23, 2008, Pradhan was initially arrested in Berhampur city in neighboring Ganjam district in December 2008. The violence began a day after Saraswati’s killing when Hindu nationalist groups blamed Christians for his murder, although Maoists (extreme Marxists) claimed responsibility for it.
In spite of this week’s conviction, the Orissa state unit of the BJP said the case against Pradhan was weak.
“The case is not strong,” Orissa BJP President Jual Oram told Compass by telephone. “Pradhan was merely present at the scene of crime.”
Pradhan was named in at least 12 police complaints concerning murder and arson. But after he won the election, he was released on bail.
This is the 36-year-old Pradhan’s second conviction. On June 29, Kandhamal’s Fast Track Court I sentenced him to seven years in jail in a case concerning the murder of another Christian, Parikhita Nayak, also from Budedi village, who was killed on Aug. 27, 2008. Though not convicted of murder, Pradhan was found guilty of rioting and causing grievous hurt in the Parikhita Nayak case.
The June 29 judgment led to his arrest, but the Orissa High Court granted him bail eight days later.
The BJP will challenge the convictions in a higher court, Oram said.
Last month Kanaka Rekha Nayak, widow of Parikhita Nayak, complained that despite the conviction of Pradhan and an accomplice, they were immediately given bail and continued to roam the area, often intimidating her.
Rekha Nayak was among 43 survivors who on Aug. 22-24 testified in Delhi before the National People’s Tribunal (NPT), a private hearing of victims of the Kandhamal violence organized by the National Solidarity Forum, a confederation of 60 non-profit groups and people’s movements.
Nayak said local politicians, including Pradhan, hit her husband with an axe. Her husband’s body was later chopped into pieces, she recalled as she sobbed during testimony at the tribunal, headed by Justice A.P. Shah, former chief justice of Delhi High Court.
The fast track courts set up especially to hear cases related to the anti-Christian violence have acquitted Pradhan in seven cases for lack of evidence. Three more cases are pending against him.
The state BJP’s Oram said Christians had created “hype” about the cases against Pradhan to “trouble us.” He added, “The state government is not doing anything to arrest and try the killers of the Swami.”
The NPT tribunal asserted that between August and December 2008, about 2,000 people were “forced to repudiate their Christian faith.”
The tribunal cited government figures asserting that during the violence from August to December 2008, more than 600 villages were ransacked, 5,600 houses were looted and burned, 54,000 people were left homeless, and 38 people were murdered in Kandhamal alone. It also noted that human rights groups estimated that over 100 people were killed, including women, disabled and aged persons and children, and “an un-estimated number suffered severe physical injuries and mental trauma.”
While there were reports of four women being gang-raped, many more victims of sexual assault were believed to have been intimidated into silence, the tribunal concluded.
As many as 295 church buildings and other places of worship, big and small, were destroyed, and 13 schools, colleges, and offices of five non-profit organizations damaged, it said, adding that about 30,000 people were uprooted and living in relief camps, with many of them still displaced.
“More than 10,000 children had their education severely disrupted due to displacement and fear,” it reported. “Today, after two years, the situation has not improved, although the administration time and again claims it is peaceful and has returned to normalcy.”
The Christian community was deliberately targeted by Hindu nationalist groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), the Bajrang Dal and the active members of Bharatiya Janata Party,” the tribunal concluded.
The jury also observed that cries against religious conversions were used as for political mobilization and “to incite horrific forms of violence and discrimination against the Christians” of Dalit (formerly “untouchables” according the caste hierarchy in Hinduism) origin.
“The object is to dominate them and ensure that they never rise above their low caste status and remain subservient to the upper castes,” it added.
The jury accused police of complicity, which “was not an aberration of a few individual police men, but evidence of an institutional bias against the targeted Christian community.”
“The jury is constrained to observe that public officials have colluded in the destruction of evidence, and there is testimony directly implicating the District Collector [the administrative head of a district] in this misdemeanor.”
The jury expressed concern over the lack of mechanisms to protect victims “who have dared to lodge complaints and witnesses who have courageously given evidence in court,” as they “are unable to return to their homes.”
“There is no guarantee of safe passage to and from the courts. They are living in other cities and villages, many of them in hiding, as they apprehend danger to their lives.”
It also noted mental trauma in children.
“There has been no trauma counselling for the affected children and adolescents in Kandhamal. Even today they have nightmares of running in the jungle, with the killers in pursuit, are scared of any loud sound and are afraid of people walking in groups or talking loudly.”
Bollywood lyricist Javed Akhtar, who was part of the tribunal, said that incidents such as the Kandhamal carnage against religious minorities continued to happen with “alarming frequency” in India.
“As citizens of this democracy, we should hang our heads in shame,” he said.
Report from Compass Direct News
Sexual assault by Muslim extremists is commonplace but rarely reported.
FAROOQABAD, Pakistan, August 16 (CDN) — The vulnerability of Christian girls to sexual assault in Pakistani society emerged again last month as a Muslim landowner allegedly targeted a 16-year-old and a gang of madrassa (Islamic school) students allegedly abused a 12-year-old in Punjab Province.
In Farooqabad, Shiekhupura district, three Muslim co-workers of a Christian man allegedly raped his 16-year-old daughter at gunpoint the night of July 21; the following evening in Gujar Khan, Rawalpindi district, more than a half dozen madrassa students decided to “teach these Christians a lesson” by allegedly gang-raping the 12-year-old girl.
The students at Jamia Islamia Madrassa had been harassing Christians in the villages around Gujar Khan, said the pastor of the church to which the girl’s family belongs, United Pentecostal Church.
“They openly announce that ‘the Christians are our enemies, we should not talk to them, eat with them or do business with them,’” Pastor Shakeel Javed told Compass.
The students often beat Christian children who come to play on the school grounds, telling them to convert or leave, he said, adding that on Sundays they throw stones at the church building.
A school teacher who said she was witness to the alleged rape told Compass that when she came across the madrassa students the evening of July 22, she overheard one saying, “We will teach these Christians a lesson they will never forget.”
“Three or four Christian girls were washing dishes near a pond,” Rana Aftab said. “These guys ran towards them, and the girls started running. One of them fell on the ground, and these madrassa students got hold of her and took her in the fields. I tried to stop them, but they were 15-16 in number.”
Seven or eight of them raped the girl, whose name is withheld, while the others looked on, Aftab said.
“She kept yelling for help, but no one heard her cries,” Aftab said.
They left the girl in the field, and some villages took her home to her father, Pervaiz Masih, Aftab said.
Masih was devastated, and the girl’s mother fainted when she saw her, Masih told Compass.
Masih and Aftab went to the police station to register a complaint, but the officer in charge refused to register it, Aftab said.
When Compass contacted officers at the police station, they initially refused to comment, but eventually one admitted that they are under pressure from Muslims leaders and extremists to refrain from filing a First Information Report (FIR) on the alleged crime.
In eastern Punjab Province’s Farooqabad, the Christian father of the allegedly raped 16-year-old girl said he was later kidnapped and tortured.
In his complaint to police, Ghafoor Masih of Kot Sandha village said he was working the fields when three men who work for his Muslim employer overpowered his daughter at home and dragged her into one of the rooms of the house at gunpoint.
His daughter, whose name is withheld, told police that the three men raped her while keeping her from screaming for help by threatening to shoot her in the forehead with a pistol. The family accused Rashid Ali, another Muslim identified only as Maan son of Muhammad Boota and an unidentified man who also worked for Masih’s employer, Hajji Rashid Jutt.
The next morning, July 22, Masih went to the Saddr police station in Farooqabad, but Station House Officer Inspector Nasseer Ahmad Khan refused to register a First Information Report (FIR), labor leaders said. Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra, chairman of the Bonded Labor Front, and Zia-ud-Din Khokhar, chairman of Equality for Minorities, later approached the Shiekhupura district police officer with Masih’s complaint, and on July 28 the official sent an application for a FIR to Saddr Police Station.
Under pressure from the superior officer, on July 29 Inspector Khan registered the FIR under for “gang-rape at gunpoint,” family members and clergy said.
As Masih made his way home after the filing of the FIR on July 29, however, two other Muslims who work for his employer, Jutt, allegedly intercepted and kidnapped him, the family members said, and took him to Jutt’s farmhouse. There Jutt, the two men – Muhammad Irfan and Muhammad Usman – and another worker for Jutt, Fazal Karim, allegedly shackled and tortured Masih, leaving him in critical condition.
Inspector Khan told Compass that he has arrested Jutt, Irfan and Usman for kidnapping, as well as the suspect identified only as Maan for the alleged rape of Masih’s daughter.
Joseph Francis, national director of the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, condemned the alleged rape of the 16-year-old girl.
“Muslim landowners and their relatives see Christian girls or women as their chattel,” Francis said. “Such vicious incidents are not being stopped by the government, and day by day the rate of rapes of Christian girls is escalating instead of plunging.”
Sahotra and Khokhar added that many such cases go unreported as impoverished Christian families often do not have the resources to pursue justice.
Report from Compass Direct News
DNA results match their semen samples in case filed by family of fatherless 14-year-old.
LAHORE, Pakistan, June 3 (CDN) — Forensic DNA results of semen samples in a sexual assault case show they match those of the Muslim boys a 14-year-old Christian girl accuses of raping her, according to advocacy organizations.
The girl accuses Muhammad Noman and Muhammad Imran, both 17, of abducting her from her school in Kamboh colony, Lahore, in Punjab Province, on May 6 and drugging her prior to sexually assaulting her, according to Khalid Gill, president of the Christian Lawyers Foundation (CLF), and officials of the National Commission of Justice and Peace (NCJP).
The minor, whose name was withheld, told the organizations that she was waiting for her younger sister at the main gate of S.M. Foundation School after class hours when Noman and Imran told her that a girl named Hira wanted to see her.
The girl said that she told them she was not familiar with anyone named Hira, but that she was not afraid because there was no problem meeting a girl. She told the NCJP that as she stepped off the school grounds, Noman and Imran overpowered her, tightly covering her mouth to stifle her cries for help. Later they gagged her with a band of cloth.
NCJP General Secretary Peter Jacob reported that they took her by motorbike to a place unknown to her and compelled her to consume a soft drink containing tranquilizers. Able to see but unable to move as she began to lose consciousness, she was unable to stop them as each boy raped her, she told the NCJP. She said she later became totally unconscious.
The CLF’s Gill said the boys later left her on a road near the school’s main entrance.
The girl’s father, Rehmat Masih, is deceased. Her mother, Aysha Bibi, said that she had fearfully begun searching for her and had contacted a school administration official, who said that her daughter had left the school on foot. Several Christian neighbors also participated in the search.
Christian neighbor Shehzad Masih found her unconscious on the road near the school gate and brought her home, according to the NCJP’s Jacob. As the 14-year-old regained consciousness, her mother and others brought her to the Millat Park Police Station and filed an application to register a case against Noman and Imran.
After investigating, on May 9 Millat Park Police registered a case against Noman and Imran for abducting “with intent to commit adultery.”
Although Muslims commonly commit crimes against Christians in Pakistan assuming law enforcement officials will not prosecute, the two boys were arrested on May 26. Police sent DNA samples of the semen of both Muslim youths to a forensic laboratory, and the results linking them to the crime returned this week, CLF and NCJP’s Jacob said.
A urine test indicated the girl was not pregnant, CLF and NCJP officials said.
10 men accused; 50 others sought from mob active during anti-Christian violence.
NEW DELHI, February 3 (Compass Direct News) – Orissa police on Thursday (Jan. 29) filed preliminary charges against 10 men in the rape of a nun during anti-Christian violence in Orissa last August.
The charges were filed at sessions court of Balliguda block in Kandhamal district, where violence against Christians was reported to be the severest. Central Investigation Department (CID) Inspector Dilip Mohanty filed the charge sheet before the sub-divisional judicial magistrate of Balliguda.
The deadline for filing charges was upon Orissa police, who are required to do so within 120 days from the date of arrest. Police made the first arrest in the case on Oct. 2, 2008.
“We have submitted the charge sheet within the stipulated 120 days,” CID Inspector General Arun Ray told reporters. “Now the court will frame charges and the trial will start.”
All of the accused had been arrested earlier by Orissa police: Jhuria Pradhan, Kartik Pradhan, Saroj Bhadei, Muna Bhadei, Tapas Patnaik, Santosh Patnaik, Biren Sahu, Somanath Pradhan, Gajendra Digal and Jharalal Behera. According to the Crime Branch report, Kartik Pradhan is Jhuria Pradhan’s son, while Muna Bhadei is the son of Saroj Bhadei. Tapas and Santosh Patnaik are siblings.
In a suspect line-up at Cuttack on Jan. 5, the nun identified Santosh Patnaik and Kartik Pradhan as people involved in the crime.
Police Stood By
A native of Dhama area in Sambalpur district of Orissa, the nun said she was raped in K. Nuagaon village on Aug. 25, 2008, during large-scale violence against Christians that broke out in Kandhamal and surrounding districts of Orissa.
The violence resulted from Hindu extremist organizations blaming Christians for the murder of Hindu leader Laxmanananda Saraswati on Aug. 23. Police, however, have charged Maoist extremists for the killings. The melee lasted more than two months and resulted in around 120 dead, according to the All India Christian Council (AICC), although a Communist Party fact-finding team estimated at least 500 people were murdered (the Orissa state government’s official death toll is still just 32). More than 50,000 people were left homeless as some 5,000 houses were burned or destroyed, and 252 churches were destroyed, according to the AICC.
The 29-year-old nun, who was working at Divyajyoti Pastoral Centre in K. Nuagaon, was allegedly dragged and raped by the accused as police looked on. In her First Information Report (FIR) filed on Aug. 26 at Balliguda police station, according to the Indian Express, she said 40 armed men arrived at Divyajyoti Pastoral Centre on Aug. 24.
“Me and the Father [Thomas Chellantharayil] jumped over the boundary and ran to a nearby forest,” she reported. “They were shouting, ‘Bharat mata ki jai [Victory to Mother India].’ They burned the centre … The next day, we concealed ourselves in the house of Prahallad Pradhan of K. Nuagaon, but at 1 p.m. the mob found us and dragged me and father out.”
The mob took her to the deserted offices of a local Christian Non-Governmental Organization and forced her clothes off of her, she said. “There one of them raped me. After that, they paraded me naked on the street and took me to an official at K. Nuagaon.”
In her FIR, the nun had not named anyone but said that she could identify the victims if they were brought before her. A doctor examined her at 8:45 p.m. on Aug. 25, and the medical report reportedly confirmed rape and sexual assault. Orissa police, however, waited 38 days to pick up the medical report, citing busyness as the reason for delay.
Indian media widely cited laxness on the part of the administration, and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani called it, “a shameful crime against humanity.”
The state government suspended five policemen, including Sub-Inspector of Balliguda K.M. Rao, for misconduct and negligence. In the ensuing arrests, Orissa police apprehended some suspects as far away as Palaghat in Kerala, India’s southern-most state.
The nun had asked for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the incident in a petition to the Supreme Court in October 2008. The court denied the request and asked her to cooperate with the state’s crime branch.
Ray, the CID inspector general, said police have submitted another 50 names who were part of the mob that assaulted the woman, according to the Indian Express. The court is expected to issue non-bail arrest warrants for them. A supplementary charge sheet will be filed after completion of the investigation.
Report from Compass Direct News
Initial forensic test indicating no sexual attack further cast into doubt.
DHAKA, Bangladesh, August 18 (Compass Direct News) – Following a dubious forensics test indicating no evidence of sexual assault, a second DNA test links one of five men accused of gang-raping a village pastor’s daughter to sperm found on her clothing.
Pastor Motilal Das of Laksmipur village says he found his 13-year-old daughter lying unconscious in front of his house early in the morning of May 2 after five men from Mymensingh district raped her. Villagers were upset at his evangelistic efforts and had raped his daughter, according to the pastor, in an effort to drive him from the area.
DNA profiling expert Ahmed Ferdous of the National Forensic DNA Profiling Laboratory of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) told Compass the results of the second test have been sent to police and court officials.
“The profile matched in the test and the DNA report turned out positive, which apparently shows that the girl was raped or sexually assaulted,” Ferdous said.
Villagers in Laksmipur, in Fulbaria sub-district 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the capital, believe relatives of the accused men paid off the Mymensingh Medical College Hospital Forensic Department, which conducted the first test, to conclude there were no signs of sexual assault.
Mymensingh Medical College Hospital Forensic Department head Akhteruzzaman Talukder denied the accusations, telling Compass that Das’s daughter “might have had a love affair with someone in the village.” (See Compass Direct News, “Rape Case Medical Report in Bangladesh Called False,” June 6.)
Das said relatives of the alleged rapists have offered him a large sum of money to withdraw the case or settle out of court – while continuing to threaten him.
“Some relatives of the rapists told me to compromise with them by withdrawing the case,” he told Compass. “They told me that if I do not compromise with them, they will evict us from the village and our life will be in great danger.”
The pastor of United Bethany Church said officers told him and his wife that police are continuing the investigation based on the new forensics report, which a police inspector showed to them.
“The police told us the DNA report is positive and it is the acknowledgement of the rape case,” Das said.
Local police inspector Tarapad Shikder told Compass that charges will be filed after the investigation is completed into the alleged rape of Elina Das, who said she was attacked as she went to an outdoor latrine at 3 a.m on May 2.
“Sperm of the of the arrested person has been found on Elina’s clothing according to the DNA report,” Shikder said. “We are investigating the case whether she was raped, and if not, then how is it that the sperm is found on Elina’s clothing.”
While police are still investigating whether the laboratory results indicate rape or sexual molestation, Das said police told him that the new DNA report was sufficient to file charges, he said.
“Police assured me that the charge sheet against the rapists will be submitted to the court soon, and that they do not need any further evidence because the DNA report has everything they need,” the pastor said.
Das and his Muslim neighbors had expressed outrage at the previous forensic report by Mymensingh Medical College Hospital last June. Subsequently the pastor went to DMCH for a second DNA test on June 8.
Babul Mia, a 32-year old Muslim neighbor of Das, said the previous forensic report suggesting that Elina Das may have had a “love affair” with one of the accused men was “an out-and-out lie.”
“The criminals are far too aged – none of them so far identified is her classmate or in the same age range,” Mia said. “What happened to her is inhumane, and I do not find any reason why such a minor girl would be raped. An outburst of religious anger because of their different [Christian] faith could be the cause of this inhuman activity.”
Elina Das has identified two of the alleged rapists and could identify the others if she saw them or their pictures, according to her father. Police have arrested Shebul Miah, 22. The girl identified another suspect, 32-year-old Dulal Miah, alias Dulu, who remains at large.
Muslim villagers and neighbors continued to show their support for pastor Das’ family.
“We, all the people of this area, want that there should be proper judgment of this gang-rape, and this report gave us a ray of hope that the rapists would be punished,” 45-year-old farmer Chan Miah of the same village told Compass. “I pray to almighty Allah that not a single girl in the society does experience such brutality in her life – whether she is Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim.”
Report from Compass Direct News