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.
"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.
According to the victim's statement, Vinod had allegedly 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, Bishop Samuel then demanded that she withdraw the case or that Vinod would expose the video. She has alleged that he 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. In January 2015, the Cubbon Park Police had registered a POCSO case against Bishop Samuel. In April 2018, a special POCSO court issued a non-bailable warrant against Bishop Samuel as he had not appeared for a hearing in the case. His name had however been dropped from the chargesheet in 2017.
There are other complaints too against Bishop Samuel and Vinod Dasan. However, they are not cases of sexual harassment or sexual assault. Speaking to TNM, Vinod Dasan says that he is being framed by some church members. Vinod claims that he never visited Hema at her mother's residence in Devanahalli and that he did not sexually harass her.
"There are some church members who are trying to malign my reputation. Father PK Samuel did not threaten her and neither did I," he said.
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
Editor's Note on December 13, 2019: We have removed a quote from the friend alleging further threat from the Bishop, as this has not been mentioned by the victim in the police complaint. We have also removed a document which listed cases against the Bishop and Vinod as B reports were filed in a few, and in another few their names were not mentioned.