BHUBNESHWAR, India – Indian authorities arrested four people and suspended a police officer Friday following a medical report indicating a Catholic nun was likely raped in an attack by a Hindu mob during religious clashes, a state government spokesman said.
The government of eastern Orissa state also ordered an investigation by a senior police officer into the incident, said Chittaranjan Pati, the spokesman for the state's top elected official.
The nun filed a police complaint on Aug. 25, alleging she was raped when a large Hindu mob attacked a prayer hall in Orissa state's Kandhamal district where she worked. She told the police she was paraded naked after the rape.
The state government suspended police inspector K. N. Rao for not acting promptly on the complaint, Pati said.
"Strict action will be taken against those who have committed this shameful and savage crime," Navin Patnaik, the state chief minister, told reporters.
Patnaik ordered the probe as Christian leaders accused the federal government and the state government of not doing enough to end attacks by Hindu hard-liners.
Doctors conducted a medical examination after the nun filed the complaint in August, but police did not receive the report until Thursday, Rao told The Associated press earlier Friday. He blamed the local hospital for not sending police the report sooner.
Rao said that "the doctors say there are signs and symptoms of rape," but he had not read the entire medical report.
News reports Friday said the medical report had confirmed the rape.
The nun did not name her attacker in the complaint, Rao said.
The doctors, however, put the blame on police for not collecting the report.
"We prepared the report immediately and called up the inspector the next day and even sent a reminder to him to collect the report," Sangeeta Mishra, one of the doctors who examined the nun told The Indian Express newspaper.
The doctor could not immediately be reached for independent verification.
Other details were not immediately available.
Clashes between Hindus and Christians in Kandhamal district began Aug. 24 following the killing of a Hindu religious leader. At the time, police blamed Maoist rebels active in the area, but conservative Hindu groups blamed Christian residents and set fire to a a Christian orphanage.
The violence then escalated as Hindu mobs attacked churches, shops and homes.
According to the state government, 32 people have died in the ensuing violence. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India has said at least 40 Christians have been killed.
Early Thursday, the violence spread to Kandhamal's neighboring district of Boudh where a group of nearly 150 people torched over 100 houses, according to Manoranjan Kanar, a local police officer.
He gave no other details about the attack, but added that there were no casualties or injuries.
The attacks against Christians also have spread to the southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
Relations are usually peaceful between Christians, who make up 2.5 percent of India's 1.1 billion people, and Hindus, who account for more than 80 percent.
However, hard-line Hindu groups claim Christian missionary groups are forcing or bribing people to convert to Christianity, charges denied by Christian leaders.