Samandhar Singh was winding up his usual work at a field on Friday evening when he got a phone call. The caller told Samandhar that Sister Rani Maria, who he had stabbed and murdered in 1995, had been chosen for beatification. When Samandhar got off the call, there were tears in his eyes and conflict in his heart.
“There was crushing sadness because I know what happened to her at my hands was terrible. It was my biggest mistake and a regret I will carry for the rest of my life. But I was also happy that her good work had been recognized and she would be granted sainthood. It will inspire others to do good work as well,” Samandhar told TNM.
Samandhar was convicted of stabbing to death Sister Maria, a Franciscan Clarist nun, in 1995. He was allegedly hired by zamindars and moneylenders in Udainagar (a place about 54 kilometers away from Indore, Madhya Pradesh) who were unhappy with the missionary work Sister Maria was doing to help landless agricultural labourers there.
In 2002, Sister Maria's sister, Selmy Paul, a nun herself, forgave Samandhar for his crime and accepted him into their family by tying a rakhi. In 2006, she also pleaded for Samandhar’s early release. He had been sentenced to life imprisonment.
The family’s forgiveness gave Samadhar a “new life”, he told Catholic News Service.
Samandhar says that the biggest change in his psyche is that now he understands what ‘samaj prem’ (love for the society) really means. “It’s love and desire to do good for everyone. Earlier it was conditional and vested,” he says.
Ever since he began repenting, Samandhar has tried to do what little good he can for the people around him. The 50-year-old is unmarried and lives with his brother and his family at a village a few kilometers from Indore. He spends his days working in the field, doing agricultural work. “But the produce wasn’t good for the last four years. Only this year do things seem a little better,” he informs.
The burden of Sister Maria’s death is something he continues to carry. But Samandhar says that he tries to do good for others around him in whatever way he can.
“My penance is trying to help people around me, not bear ill will against anyone. I try to help people monetarily whatever little I can – especially people who are sick and need help for treatment. I also donate blood now and then,” Samandhar says. “I want to leave home and work for the elderly at an old age home,” he adds.
He continues to keep in touch with Sister Selmy too. Till 2006, she has visited Samandhar every year on Rakshabandhan. After he was released, he made it a point to visit her on every rakshabandhan, wherever she was posted.
“I also call her whenever I am unsure of what I should do in a situation,” he says.
Sister Selmy meanwhile is elated at the news of Sister Maria’s beatification. Speaking to TNM, she said: “I’m very happy and proud of my sister. I don’t know if our family is worthy of this but God has chosen us. So it is his will.”
The process of Sister Maria's canonisation began in 2003, and she was declared a ‘Servant of God’ four years later. The nun will be known as Blessed Sr Rani Maria after the beatification. She was a native of Pulluvazhi near Perumbavoor.