BHUBNESHWAR, India – Police in eastern India have charged 10 men with gang raping a Catholic nun during weeks of anti-Christian violence last year, an official said Thursday.
The violence between Hindus and Christians in Orissa state followed the killing of a Hindu religious leader in August. Police blamed Maoist rebels, but conservative Hindu groups blamed Christian residents and set fire to a Christian orphanage.
The state government said 32 people died in the clashes that followed. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India said at least 40 Christians were killed.
The nun, her face hidden behind a scarf, had told reporters in October that she was raped on Aug. 25 when a mob attacked a prayer hall where she worked in the state's Kandhamal district.
She said a group of about 50 men tore off her clothes and raped her. Later, she said, she was paraded naked, together with a priest, past several policeman who she says did not help her.
On Thursday, investigating officer Dilip Mohanty said that 10 men, including two the nun had identified from a lineup on Jan. 5, were charged with gang rape — a specific charge under Indian law. If convicted, the men face up to 10 years in prison.
Twenty others have also been brought up on charges related to their alleged rioting during the attack on the prayer house where the nun worked, police official Jitendra Koel said.
Mohanty said the investigation into the attack would continue and police was looking for other attackers and members of the mob.
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, Orissa has a history of anti-Christian violence, with hard-line Hindu groups claiming Christian missionary groups are forcing or bribing people to convert, charges denied by Christian leaders.