The case of a Bengaluru Dalit woman, who was allegedly sexually harassed by PK Samuel, the Central Diocese of Church of South India, and subsequently attempted suicide, has taken a murkier turn. Police investigating the case say that Hema's* ordeal began in 2013 when she was a resident of an orphanage run by a South Korean man named Do-Wong Choy. Do-Wong Choy was accused of sexually abusing the women in the orphanage, while his associate Manual Jaysingh was accused of filming these incidents. The duo was accused of blackmailing the women for sex.
The issue came out when in 2013, a woman accused Choy of raping her in June that year, and a complaint was registered at the Kothanur Police Station. However, Choy and Manual were acquitted in the case in January this year.
Meanwhile, Hema attempted to kill herself on January 31, following a verbal altercation with Bishop PK Samuel, said Harsha, DCP East. Bishop PK Samuel has been booked under Sections 354 (using criminal force to assault a woman), 506 (criminal intimidation), 504, and 34 of the Indian Penal Code.
"In 2013, Hema was also a resident of the same orphanage (run by Choy) and there was a video of her as well. This is where Vinod Dasan comes in. Vinod Dasan is a member of the CSI and not a pastor. He is considered the right-hand man of Bishop Samuel. In 2013, when Hema filed the complaint against Vinod Dasan with the Kothanur Police, she had accused him of threatening to expose the video, which was in his possession. That case is still being heard by the sessions court in Bengaluru. She had accused him of threatening to distribute obscene materials (section 292 of the IPC)," a member of CSI, who is close to the survivor, told TNM.
Police suspect that Vinod Dasan was involved in the sexual abuse racket at the orphanage. They say that Vinod Dasan was not a pastor but a member of the Church of South India and was nominated by Bishop PK Samuel as a member of the Diocese Council.
"His membership to the Council is pending confirmation. Vinod Dasan could not be nominated since there were criminal charges pending against him. He found out that the survivor was married and so he is believed to have threatened her to comply with his demands or that he will show the videos to her husband," a police officer said.
The CSI member corroborated the police version and alleged that on January 13 this year, Vinod had visited Hema's home in Bengaluru and threatened to show the video to her husband if she did not meet Bishop Samuel. On January 21, Hema allegedly decided to take her husband along with her, as she suspected that Vinod and Bishop Samuel would cause her harm.
"When they met at the Holy Trinity Church located in Trinity Circle, Vinod Dasan took her husband aside. Bishop Samuel then demanded that she withdraw the case or that Vinod would expose the video. He then offered her money and a well-paying job if she would have sexual intercourse with him. He is believed to have touched her inappropriately as well. When she refused and tried to scream, he threatened to kill her," the CSI member claimed.
Hema was distraught as she had allegedly been getting constant calls from Vinod to comply with his demands. On January 31, Hema allegedly went to the Church of South India hospital after she learnt that one of the Bishop's relatives was admitted to the hospital.
"She came there to confront him. When he showed up, they had an argument and she accused him of making her life hell. She also told him that if she dies, it would be because of him and tried to consume insecticide. The security guards tried to stop her but she had already consumed some of the insecticide. So she was admitted and given treatment," the police added.
The Shivajinagar Police then registered an FIR against Samuel and Vinod. However, this is not the first time that Bishop Samuel has been accused of sexual harassment. In January 2015, the Cubbon Park Police had registered a POCSO case against Bishop Samuel. He was accused of molesting several girls at a prominent all-girls' school located in the Central Business District in Bengaluru. In January 2018, a special POCSO court issued a non-bailable warrant against Bishop Samuel as he had not appeared for a single court hearing in the case.
Bishop Samuel and Vinod Dasan have multiple FIRs registered against them across various police stations. However, they are not cases of sexual harassment or sexual assault.
On Saturday, several Dalit rights activists visited Home Minister MB Patil and demanded that Bishop Samuel and Vinod Dasan be arrested immediately. They also requested that Hema's case should be transferred to the CID.
Meanwhile, when contacted by TNM, Bishop PK Samuel denied the allegations. "I don't know who this woman is and I have never met her before. I know Vinod Dasan and he is a member of a church in Cox Town and not Holy Trinity Church. I categorically deny all allegations. Let the police investigate the matter. I have full faith in the police and the judiciary. I am a law abiding citizen. Based on the outcome of the police investigation, I will determine whether I have to file a case against the woman," he said.
*Name changed to protect privacy