Kathmandu, Aug 16 (IANS) Nearly two months after she was robbed and gangraped by five men in a bus in eastern Nepal and was controversially divested by the clergy of her right to remain a nun, a 21-year-old Buddhist nun from Nepal now faces a new ordeal with the district court opening the trial of her attackers Tuesday.
The young woman, whom the state has assigned a new name - Phulmaya - to protect her identity, will now have to 'endure' -- both as a victim and prime witness -- a legal battle with her attackers as they are claiming they had consensual sex with her.
'The men arrested for the attack initially confessed to police that they had raped the young nun who was travelling on her own by public bus,' said Krishna Batu Bhandari, chief public prosecutor of Sankhuwasabha district where the court begins to hear the case Tuesday.
'However, later, they all retracted their confessions, saying it was consensual sex.'
Of the five men arrested for the attack, that Bhandari says was unprecedented, three are teenagers: Sovit Magar, Abhishek Magar, and Dorn Bahadur Rai.
Bhandari says Rai was apparently not part of the gang but a bystander who happened to be at the spot during the incident and was arrested and wrongly charged by police.
'However, he is a key witness,' Bhandari told IANS.
According to Rai's statement, Bhuvan Korangi Gurung, the conductor of the bus in which the nun was travelling, was the main culprit who plotted the attack and incited the others, mainly the driver of the bus and his helpers.
Gurung, 24, is married and has a daughter.
Bhadari said he is asking for 13 years' imprisonment for the accused for gangrape and an additional six years for robbery.
The men snatched the NRS 130,000 that the nun was carrying with her, given to her for the family by her elder sister, her mobile phone and other possessions.
Bhandari says it would take about a year for the case to be resolved. After some time, the court will ask the nun to appear before it for her deposition and cross-examination by the lawyers of the accused.
'I am dreading that,' said Ani Choying Drolma, also known as Nepal's singing nun. The 40-year-old is one of the most celebrated Buddhist nuns in Nepal, having won fans worldwide for her mellifluous rendition of Buddhist sacred chants.
After a debate over whether the raped nun was still eligible to remain a nun and her future became uncertain, Ani Choying Drolma offered her refuge in the school for nuns she has founded in Nepal with money raised from her concerts at home and abroad.
'She is still mentally scarred and such an ordeal could affect her recovery,' Ani Choying Drolma told IANS. 'The state should make arrangements for her deposition to be taken in Kathmandu.'
Bhandari says the gangrape of a nun, who was easily recognisable as one by the traditional red habit she was wearing as well as her short hair, is an unprecedented attack in Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha.
'I have been practising law for 15 years,' he said. 'And I have never come across such an incident before.'
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)