The one-day convention will be held in Kottayam on Saturday and attended by the nuns, as well as other prominent personalities.

Kerala nuns and Save Our Sisters to launch protest against transfer order
news protest Saturday, February 09, 2019 - 08:53

Following the historic protest at Kochi’s Vanchi square last year to get rape accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal arrested, the Save our Sisters (SOS) forum along with the nuns are planning to launch another protest, this time against their transfer order.

Four of the nuns - Sr Anupama, Sr Alphy, Sr Josephine and Sr Ancitta - who are key witnesses against the accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal in the case, have been transferred by the church to different places in Punjab, Jharkhand, Bihar and Kannur, in what is seen as a bid to separate them.

The fifth nun, Sr Nina Rose, had been asked by the Superior General of Missionaries of Jesus congregation Sr Regina Kadamthottu to appear before the authorities in Jalandhar, where Bishop Franco currently resides, on January 26. The move has been widely criticised as the church attempt to weaken the unity of the witnesses and break their strength by isolating them.

Following this development, a one-day convention is being held at the Old Police Station grounds in Kottayam by Save Our Sisters on Saturday. The convention which will be attended by writers, poets, activists and other public figures is to discuss a second, state-wide protest against the transfer order.

“We have two demands. One, the church should withdraw the transfer orders given to these nuns. The second one is to get the church to provide the necessary protection to the nuns in their current convent,” said Riju Kanjookaran, one of the conveners.

Riju says that the transfer order is a deliberate attempt by the church to break the unity of the nuns. Besides, if they are transferred to far off places, coming back in time to Kerala for hearings will be difficult as they have to get permission from their Mother Superiors.

In a letter written to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan asking for the state’s intervention against the transfer, the SOS forum has said,”It is apparent that the congregation is ensuring that the key witnesses are moved out of the jurisdiction of the Kerala police, but at the same time accessible to Franco Mulakkal and his supporters… we strongly believe that by enforcing the transfer order issued to the nuns supporting the survivor/witnesses, the congregation of Missionaries of Jesus is intact purporting to help the accused Franco Mulakkal to come in contact with the witnesses in a bid to influence their evidence.” The letter was also signed by prominent personalities including poet Sachidanandan, academic TT Sreekumar, and Kavitha Krishnan of the All India Progressive Women Association.

As for the church’s refusal to provide protection, Riju says that the authorities who are in support of Bishop Franco want to isolate the nuns so that they leave the convent and go.

“They refuse to provide basic level of protection. The Kuruvilangad police had earlier asked them to install night vision cameras, close the well inside the convent and cut the top branches of a tree that touches the convent terrace. They have not done any of this and instead wrote back to the police asking them to move the nuns to a government facility,” Riju added.

Bishop Franco Mulakkal is a senior clergyman in the Missionaries of Jesus convention and head of its Jalandhar diocese. He was accused of rape by a nun and following a 14-day protest for justice was finally arrested by the Kerala police in September 2018.