Rape as a weapon

While going through the latest ‘tale of two rapes’, I thought I should share my finding ‘Rape as a weapon’ andPregnant mothers and infants pay a heavy price’ (from my forthcoming international book on Kandhamal. The info may be shocking. But that is the sad reality of Kandhamal. Anto Akkara

Rape as a weapon

Sexual violence against women has been used as a weapon in areas of ethnic oppression and conflict. Kandhamal was no exception.

“There are several other reports of sexual assault and molestation and it is highly likely that many other such cases have gone unreported due to the shame attached,” warned the study ‘Genocide in Kandhamal’ by the Human Rights Law Network. The legal action group in its study released before the end of 2008 – one of the first studies on the Kandhamal carnage and mayhem – expressed this fear after elaborating on the rape of the young Catholic nun in public. (For raped nun, Jesus is ‘alive on the Cross’ on page 48.)

“Once termed ‘a fate worse than death’ the future of a raped a woman is one of isolation and stigma even amongst her own community and sympathisers.”[1]

The fear expressed by ‘Genocide in Kandhamal’ report was confirmed by the ‘Study of the Conditions of Women Affected by Communal Violence in Kandhamal District, Orissa, by the Nirmala Niketan College of Social Work in Mumbai, in 2009. The study confirmed at least 16 more rapes during the anti-Christian violence apart from the three rapes that have been recounted in this book: rape of Priyatama Digal (Go to Cost of faith – sadistic killing of Christians on page 22), Rajani Mahji who was gangraped and torched alive (Go to Miraculous survival of priest from torched alive on page 34) and the rape of the Catholic nun. (Go to For raped nun, Jesus is ‘alive on the Cross’ on page 48.)

These 16 rapes came to light from the random survey conducted by the Nirmala Niketan students among 355 women from 68 of the 415 villages that were affected by the violence. This study also pointed out that “it is highly likely that many other such cases have gone unreported due to the shame attached (to rape).”

On the ‘physical and sexual abuse of women and young girls’, the Nirmala Niketan report said: “A lack of security meant that they were beaten up, threatened and verbally abused by the men, they were harassed while filling water, younger girls were sexually exploited by policemen while they were bathing and nuns were harassed. Two instances of rape of girls were mentioned. In one case the girl, currently in hospital, attempted suicide by burning herself and the other girl had become pregnant after being raped and the police were trying to take advantage of her.”[2]

Among 60 women respondents who were interviewed by the research team of Department of Outreach, LoyolaCollege in Chennai, at least two women confirmed that they had been gangraped while 10 women indicated that they were sexually violated.[3]

But sadly, except for the rape of the young Catholic nun in the presence of a mob and the rape of the Hindu girl, that is narrated next, no rape case has been registered with the police as the victims dreaded being branded as a ‘rape victim’.

Pregnant mothers and infants pay a heavy price

The expulsion of the Christians from their native villages in Kandhamal led to another silent tragedy.  If over a hundred Christians had perished in the orchestrated violence, many more young lives were snuffed out as a result of the massive displacement.

Kandhamal’s Forgotten Children’, a study by Haq – a child rights group based in New Delhi, brought out this silent tragedy that unfolded in Kandhamal due to thousands of Christian families languishing in dingy refugee camps and in no-man’s areas on empty stomachs.

The sudden spurt in stillbirths, witnessed in Kandhamal, was the outcome of the distress pregnant women underwent during months of fleeing and malnourishment in the refugee camps.

There were also dozens of cases of miscarriages, premature deliveries, forced abortions and even deaths of two pregnant women in the refugee camps as no assistance was available to pregnant women during delivery in the refugee camps.

From stillbirths to infant mortality rate, the figures shot up in Kandhamal as a result of displacement of 56,000 Christians who were rendered homeless in the orchestrated violence and had to take shelter in dingy refugee camps.

Infant deaths shot up suddenly from 603 in 2007-8 to 837 in 2008-9 – an increase of 234 during the period. The fact that this figure declined to 750 in 2009-10 further confirmed that infants had to pay a heavy price – perhaps much higher than the adults as a result of the orchestrated violence.

The IMR (Infant Mortality Rate) in Nuagam block – one of the worst affected areas – also shot up from 37 in 2007 to 88 in 2008.

The sharp deterioration in child health status in Kandhamal following the violence, the study pointed out, was in areas worst affected and rooted in the widespread violence and displacement.[5]

This debilitating impact of the anti-Christian violence on the infants also fetched another ignominy for Kandhamal as the district with the highest under-five child mortality rate in the country. For every 1,000 children born in the district, 145 died before the age of five, declared the Annual Health Survey Bulletin of India that was released in August 2011.

[1]Genocide in Kandhamal’, page 9
[2]Study of the Conditions of Women Affected by Communal Violence in Kandhamal District, Orissa’, page  83
[3]  Loyola College Study 2 on Kandhamal – Impact on Women, page  64
[4] ‘Waiting for Justice – a  report of National People’s Tribunal on Kandhamal’, pages 66-67
[5] ‘Kandhamal’s Forgotten Children’, page 32

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