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Kerala nun rape case
Criticising the priests and nuns who stood in solidarity with the survivor nun, the KCBC said that these protestors were not in 'keeping with the Christian values’.
  • Tuesday, September 25, 2018 - 09:27

The Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC) on Monday issued a press note in the aftermath of the arrest of Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who was accused of raping a nun multiple times between 2014 and 2016. Criticising the priests and nuns who stood in solidarity with the survivor nun, the KCBC said that these protestors were not in 'keeping with the Christian values, rightful interests of the Catholic Church and even the statutes of their religious congregation.'

This is not the first such statement from a church body that is problematic, for various reasons. TNM is going to look at the important arguments in the statement, and analyse it.

‘Don’t tarnish image’ – but what has the Church been doing?

The press note states that the judgement in the case should not be impaired by pressure from any corner, and no attempts should be made to tarnish the image of the accused or the complainant.

"Since the case is sub judice the KCBC thinks that it is not right to comment on the truth and falsity of it. At the same time, the further enquiry and the trial of the case should take place impartially and without pressure from any corner… We pray that full justice take place in this matter. It is not to be forgotten that any conscious attempts at tarnishing the person, honour and the dignity of the complainant and the accused are not in keeping with justice and fairness."

This statement, ironically, is in direct contradiction to the actions of the Church prior to the arrest of the Bishop.

The accused – a powerful leader of the diocese of Jalandhar – was only arrested three months after a complaint was filed by the nun at the Kuravilangad police station. It further took 14 days of protests by the five nuns who were backing the survivor, and hundreds of other supporters (some even went on a hunger strike) for the police to summon the Bishop and question him, leading to his arrest on Friday.

Meanwhile, attempts to tarnish and silence those who supported the survivor nun were made by different sections of the Catholic church. On September 13, the Missionaries of Jesus congregation, to which the complainant belongs, revealed the identity of the survivor with her photograph and a statement which attempted to prove the innocence of the Bishop. According to the sisters, the authorities within the congregation even actively discouraged other nuns from attending the protest.

‘Separate the accused from the institution’ – but why is the institution backing the accused?

The second point made in KCBC's letter alleged that vested interests were attempting to disrupt the order of the Catholic church.

"We should be vigilant about those who try to put down the Church on account of an accusation against a single individual. When a reputed Indian journalist was accused of a sexual offence by his own female colleague and he was jailed no one went ahead accusing all media personnel. When a minister in Kerala had to resign on account of a similar accusation no one pointed their finger against all the ministers and politicians. So also when a Supreme Court Judge was accused of a similar case, because of which he had to resign from the chairmanship of the State Human Rights’ Commission, no one had attacked all the judges of the Supreme Court nor the judiciary in toto. Now as an accusation of sexual molestation is raised against a bishop of the Catholic Church some with vested interests and some sections of the media have taken it as an occasion to implicate the Church and the bishops as a whole, without even having the investigation completed,” the statement says.

The Catholic Church has been in the dock worldwide for harbouring and protecting sexual offenders without providing victims (women and children) with a mechanism to seek redressal. In a public statement, the protesting nuns have even said that they had spoken to several authorities within the Church regarding the issue, but their attempts were futile.

Unlike sexual offence in other institutions, be it the media or the judiciary, where workplace harassment laws are in place, the Church itself has no organisational guidelines on dealing with harassment, rape or other offences. This is because the institution believes the clergy to be servants of god, who commit no sin (which is clearly not the case). This makes it hard to detach the institution from the rape-accused individual. The only way to ensure this is to scrutinise the way the organisation itself is structured and bring about reform.

At this point, it is also clear that the Church has put its weight behind the rape-accused Bishop, but has not lent any support to the survivor, who is also a part of the institution. This calls for sharp criticism against the Church for its biased and bigoted stance on the issue.

‘We did everything by the book’ – really?

"The KCBC had also let it known that it had requested the Church authorities to act at the earliest possible upon the complaint registered by the nun. Yet as the complaint of the nun was under the consideration of the police and the court, it was not right from the part of the Church authorities to hastily act upon the same matter. At the same time without waiting for the conclusion of the police enquiry the Church authority has acted by withholding Bishop Franco Mulakkal from the administration of the diocese of Jalandhar. Hence when the nun made a complaint appropriately towards the Church authorities due redressing action has come without delay. Therefore the argument that the nun did not get justice from Church does not stand," the statement claims.

The survivor nun, her family and the other nuns have produced enough evidence to expose this lie. In the last two years, they have approached many authorities within the Church, and have even written letters to the Archbishop, the Nuncio and the Vatican.

“Legal redressal was the last resort after we exhausted all possible ways to settle the issue within the congregation. We spoke to the Kuravilangad church vicar and requested him to remove us from the Diocese of Jalandhar. He, in turn, asked us to speak with the Bishop of Pala, who sent us to Archbishop Alanchery. We even wrote letters to the Vatican Nuncio in India, but received no response from them. In the meantime, the survivor was being abused verbally and psychologically by the Bishop,” Sister Josephine, one of the nuns who was protesting, told TNM.

Following the police complaint, several attempts to hush up the case were made by authorities within the institution. In a leaked audio tape, Catholic priest James Erthayil was heard bribing the nuns with land to get them to withdraw support to the survivor. The Church failed to take cognisance of this issue and address the offenders.

‘Rightful interests of Catholic Church’ don’t include nuns’ safety?

"Whatever the reasons were, the fact that some priests and nuns agitating in the streets giving occasion to the enemies of the Church to attack the Church and the Church authorities and to disdain even the sacraments, has caused much pain to all who love the Church. We hope that the members of the Church and the public will recognize that their action was not in keeping with Christian values, rightful interests of the Catholic Church and even of the statutes of their Religious Congregation," the statement by the spokesperson of the KCBC concluded.

The 'whatever reason' as the statement frivolously mentions is a serious charge of rape. And the statement betrays the real interests of the KCBC – the image of the Catholic Church, and not justice.

Should the ‘rightful interests of the Catholic Church’ not be that the nuns – who are part of the Church – can live without fear of sexual abuse? Should not their values dictate that the survivor is heard and action is taken against the Bishop, if and when he is found guilty?

Instead, the KCBC has made it clear that they have a problem with the protesters, and not with the accused. And that in itself exposes their ‘neutral’ stand that they claim to be professing.

Protest
The Sisters from a little known convent in Kuruvilangad, Kottayam, decided to take on the mighty church.
  • Saturday, September 22, 2018 - 14:05

If you are not from Kerala, you may not know their names but they will go down in history as women who stood up for justice, refusing to be cowed down despite the looming opposition. Sisters Alphy, Anupama, Josephine, Nina Rose and Ancett are the Kerala nuns who've risked their prospects for their colleague and friend, a survivor of rape. And in their battle, there has come a David vs Goliath moment within the clergy itself.

The first victory in their battle against the  Catholic Church came with the arrest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal, the head of the Jalandhar Diocese, a powerful leader accused of raping a Kerala nun multiple times 4 years ago. 

The news announced late on Friday was bittersweet for many. While most celebrated the arrest with marches and cries of victory, those in the thick of the fight for justice were unusually solemn. 

Activist P Geetha was hardly amused by the announcement. Addressing the media she said, “What should have been a natural process took several months and the sweat and blood of many to achieve. But this is still a tiny hurdle crossed in the long journey to justice.”

Activist Stephen Mathew who resumed his 14th day of hunger strike after being discharged, vowed to protect the nuns in the days to come, as they would be most vulnerable now. 

“The land they stand on is his (Bishop Franco), the convent they live in is his. These nuns will face a tough time in the days to come and we will stand by them till the Bishop is convicted,” he said. 

But among the solemn promises and cries of happiness, what was missing were the voices of the five nuns. They had left to their convent hours before the arrest was announced. 

Addressing the crowd on Friday before leaving to the convent, Sister Anupama said: 

“We aren’t fighting against the Bishop as a person, we are fighting against his ways and the silence of the church.”

A long-time friend of the survivor, Sister Anupama was part of two major developments in the case. Her father Varghese leaked the letter she had written to him, detailing the threats issued by Bishop Franco’s men to silence those supporting the survivor. Later, Varghese even released an audio tape which exposed a Catholic priest bribing Sister Anupama to withdraw her support to the cause. 

Yet, despite several attempts to silence her, Sr Anupama sat on the dais on all 14 days, speaking on behalf of her friend and many others.

As Sr Anupama spoke to the crowd, another nun addressed a few reporters on the side. 

“We know we are going to face a tough time after this. But if the church plans to ostracise us for standing up for justice, we will fight it legally,” Sr Josephine stated. 

Another vocal nun in the protest, Sr Jospehine had moved to the Missionaries of Jesus convent after a teaching stint in Bihar. Soon enough she lent her support to the cause and has stood in solidarity with the survivor ever since. 

Today, she believes that if the Church fails her, the laws of the country will help her.  

Sr Alphy 

Sister Alphy did not speak much during the 14 days of protest. After giving short responses to questions posed by the media, she would go back to being silent, while holding a poster with ‘We want justice’ written in bold letters. 

It was during her stint as a teacher in Bihar that the complaint was registered by the survivor in Kuruvilangad. Soon enough, Sr Alphy decided to return to Kerala for two months to lend her strength to the cause and fight for the Bishop’s arrest. 

Sr Nina Rose

Another close aide of the survivor who has been in the convent since 2015, Sr Nina lent her support to the cause right from the beginning when news of the complaint received public attention. 

Sr Ancett 

Three years with the survivor nun in the same convent, St Ancett knew of the events that had unfolded and has been by the complainant’s side through thick and thin over the past few months. 

The 5 nuns believe that it was God who gave them the strength to battle against the ways of the Church. Whether it is their faith or their strong desire to undo a wrong done to one of their other own, these women have fought hard for justice and won a crucial battle. But the war has just begun and will continue till the courts convict the accused, they promise. 

Read:3 months after nun files rape complaint, Bishop Franco Mulakkal finally arrested

Sexual Assault
Justice is still elusive for the victim of the Kiliroor sex racket, but her father has vowed to fight for those struggling to survive the system.
  • Friday, September 21, 2018 - 11:59

The 13th day of the nuns’ protest in Kochi saw the presence of 59-year old Surendran, the father of the victim in the infamous Kiliroor sex racket which shook Kerala back in 2003. A minor girl was lured with opportunities in the television industry and was raped by 5 men in different parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu back in 2003. The teenage victim died in a private hospital in Kottayam in 2004.

“The CBI special court in Thiruvananthapuram awarded 10 years of rigorous imprisonment, when the case came to light. The next day they (the accused) filed an appeal at the High Court and walked out,” says Surendran.

Fourteen years have passed since, but justice remains elusive for the Kiliroor victim and her family, with the chargesheet rotting away in the halls of the Kerala High Court.

Today, the girl’s father sits in the protest of the nuns, demanding that rape accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal be arrested immediately. And he vows to battle for those who’ve been wronged by the system and denied justice.

“Until I die, I will lend my support to such causes. From my experiences, I know that I don’t want anyone to have to go through such a trauma and I will fight for all those who have undergone this,” says Surendran.

In many ways, the Kiliroor case and the nun’s protest have several threads in common, Surendran believes. Both victims were betrayed by people they trusted. In the first case an aunt and cousin were complicit in the crime. In the second case, a Bishop - the head of the Diocese -  responsible for protecting those under him, allegedly raped the nun.

Both involve powerful institutions that are silently and openly lending support to the accused. The Missionaries of Jesus resorted to slandering and revealing the identity of the survivor nun. The church is stubborn in its decision to not permanently remove the rape-accused Bishop, as is the police in not arresting him. In his daughter’s case, Surendran is firm in his belief that certain political forces in the state are silently lending support to the accused, a reason for the never-ending delay in the case.

“Cases go on for years and years. The district court charges the accused and then it moves up to the High Court. From the High Court it reaches the Supreme Court. People - both the accused and the victims die - and justice is nowhere in sight. That’s the issue I have with this system,” he says.

Acts of resistance against big and powerful institutions - be it organised religion or the government - are not easy and are almost always never won. And nobody knows this better than those like Surendran, the nuns and the hundreds of  others who battle against these institutions everyday.

“Yet, the important thing is to keep fighting and to fight together,” he says.

Read: Pope obliges Bishop Franco Mulakkal’s request, temporarily relieves him of duties

Protest
“We are expecting a lot of backlash from the church. But it cannot penalise us for fighting for justice,” the nun said.
  • Thursday, September 20, 2018 - 09:10
Protesting nuns with Sr. Josephine in the centre

What do you do when the institution that is supposed to protect you decides to malign, threaten and ostracise you for demanding justice? You fight back. Even if the said institution is the all-powerful Christian church. That is what the five nuns who’ve asked for the arrest of rape accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal firmly believe in. And despite the several stumbling blocks that lie ahead in their journey for justice, they will not back down without a fight.

“We are expecting a lot of backlash from the church. But it cannot penalise us for fighting for justice. If the church decides to punish and ostracise us for fighting against the injustice within the clergy, we will fight back and legally too, if need be,” Sister Josephine, one of the five protesting nuns of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation, told TNM.

The five sisters are not alone in their protest, as they are backed by hundreds of laity from different districts of Kerala. They even have the silent support and solidarity of other nuns in their congregation, who have undergone similar experiences.

“There are scores of nuns who have silently extended their support, only because they are too scared to open up for fear of backlash. Some are scared, some don’t want to be embroiled in a controversy, and the church itself has forced them to keep mum,” Sr Josephine said.

While the case has come out after four years, the nuns say that before the fight was out in the open, a silent struggle was being led within the institution to seek justice. But non-compliance and threats by the authorities forced the sisters to take to the streets.

“Legal redressal was the last resort after we exhausted all possible ways to settle the issue within the congregation. We spoke to the Kuruvilangad church vicar and requested him to remove us from the Diocese of Jalandhar. He, in turn, asked us to speak with the Bishop of Pala, who sent us to Archbishop Alachery. We even wrote letters to the Vatican Nuncio in India, but received no response from them. In the meantime, the survivor was being abused verbally and psychologically by the Bishop,” Josephine added.

On June 21, an FIR was registered at the Kuruvilangad police station against Bishop Franco. However, 85 days on, the police have made no arrests on the case. Accusations of vote-bank politics have been hurled at the ruling party for their apparent laxity in handling the case.

“We were offered land and money to withdraw the case and hush up by the church. But no means to right the wrong that had taken place,” the sister added.

Following 12 days of protests and hunger strike, the rape-accused Bishop was finally summoned for interrogation at the SP office in Tripunithara on Wednesday. However, protesters at the protest venue say that justice delayed is justice denied, and an arrest has to be made immediately.

Even with rallying cries for immediate arrest resounding through the protest venue, the sisters believe that the delay is inevitable.

“We expect the arrest to take place only after the hearing on the Bishop’s bail plea application, which is set to take place on September 25. As of now, the protest will continue until the accused is arrested. We will decide our next course of action after that. If the arrest is not made, then we will continue protests till it is,” she added.

But where the church and the state fail, there is the law to go to. And the nuns are firm in their belief that the despite all the delay, the court will rule for the survivor, and justice will prevail.

Protest
The protesting nuns have confirmed to TNM that they will not be ending the protest with just the bishop's arrest, but will continue till the investigation progresses.
  • Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - 14:30

It is the 12th day of protest seeking justice for the 44-year-old nun of the Missionaries of Jesus who was allegedly raped by Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Diocese of Jalandhar. The tiny shamiana-roofed protest hall at Vanchi square near Kochi High Court was packed, with crowds streaming in from different districts of Kerala to stand in solidarity with the nuns and their demand for justice. 

Oddly enough, no political leaders, from both the ruling or opposition parties, were found at the protest site. Among the prominent faces were writer, feminist and activist  P Geetha, who has been holding a hunger strike along with the sister of the survivor nun. Malayalam actor Joy Mathew who was the other prominent person in the crowds strongly condemned the delay shown by the police in arresting the rape accused bishop. 

Stating that the culprit has to be immediately arrested, Joy said “If it was a common man, the police would have arrested him almost immediately. Believers of justice have come from different parts to participate in the protest . And it is to ensure that the Franco is arrested immediately."

With a delay of over 85 days in taking action in the case, ever since the FIR was filed on June 21 this year, Joy believes that there is a clear nexus between the government and clergy, which has slowed down the process

“It is a power oriented situation and the government is playing vote bank politics. Whenever elections come they go to the Bishop’s house to ask for votes. So now they have to compromise and not react for fear of losing support.” 

Stating that people have to stop calling the rape accused ‘Bishop’ and stick to addressing him as Franco, Joy added that the concept Church itself should we revamped in order to prevent such incidents from repeating. 

“We need to stop calling him Bishop. He should only be called by his name - Franco  The church is in control of many institutions - be it the hospitals, schools or  other places. Therefore people are scared to react for fear of not getting jobs in these places or suffering ostracisation in any other manner.” 

Even as the protest continues in Kochi, the  rape accused bishop is being interrogated in Tripunithara Superintendent of Police’s office with Kottayam Deputy SP Subash leading the questioning. However even if the Bishop is arrested today, the protesting nuns have confirmed  to TNM that they will not be ending the protest with just the bishop's arrest, but will continue till the investigation progresses.

Kerala floods
The fishermen were lauded as the heroes of the Kerala floods, but a month later, they are helpless as the state has not released funds to fix their damaged boats.
  • Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - 18:01

They were heralded as the heroes of the floods that devastated Kerala and some were even honoured by CM Pinarayi Vijayan in person. But just a month after the floods, the government has disappointed them by delaying the release of funds set aside for fixing damaged boats.

Hundreds of fishing canoes were used for the rescue operations and were damaged as a result of hitting trees and walls, and all of them are pending repair work. In Kollam, Malappuram and Ernakulam districts, over 138 out of the 185 damaged boats are yet to be repaired, leaving fisherfolk helpless as they cannot go to work, according to Charles, President of Kerala Matsya Thozhilali Aykyam Vedi (Kerala Fish Workers Unity Forum).

"People have been sitting for close to a month without work. Some fishermen have literally no money to fix their damaged boats. Others have repaired their boats and submitted the bills to the official boat repair yard as per the government's instructions. But these people too have not been reimbursed," Charles added.

The government had set aside Rs 2.5 crore to help repair and rebuild boats, said Charles. However, bureaucratic processes have delayed the release of funds set aside for this purpose. And with each passing day, the losses incurred by the fisherfolk are rising.

"There is no point in releasing the funds later. The fishing season ends mid October and we won't get any catch after this," said T Peter, General Secretary of National Fish Workers forum and member of Kerala Independent Fish Workers Federation.

The damages vary from minor issues, such as peeling fibre coating to broken engines and boats.

"Some have only suffered damages of up to a few thousands of rupees. But others have to replace their engines and panels, and it can go up to Rs 50,000. It  is the government's responsibility to assess the damages and provide timely help," says Peter.

According to sources, over 4,500 fisherfolk in 1,669 boats set out to rescue flood victims across Kerala. The first set of fisherfolk, who kickstarted the rescue ops, were from Pudu Vypin in Kochi. They set out with 12 small canoes, out of this three canoes were damaged and still cannot used till date

"Repair works are to be done in official boat repair yards in the state, as per the government's instructions. But here we are, talking about small canoes, which can easily be fixed by local boat makers and carpenters. To transport the small boats in trucks to the yard would cost these fishermen around Rs 10,000 and the yard  too will attend to the big boats first, resulting in massive delays in the repair works. This forced a few fishers to get their boats repaired locally," said Charles.

These fishers are yet to be reimbursed despite official procedures for reimbursement being completed last month.

"Officials visited and clicked pictures of the boats as a record. However, the fishers still have not got their money," Charles added.

It's not just the boats that face neglect, fishing associations allege that the fishermen too have been given a raw deal by the government.

"CM Pinarayi Vijayan met and lauded two fishermen – NS Suresh and Alby – for their rescue work. Suresh suffered from rat fever and was admitted to the Ernakulam GH five days into the rescue operations. He was denied free treatment and medicines by the hospital, and we had to protest to ensure he got treated for free. Alby, on the other hand, is still waiting for the government to pay him so that he can repair his boat and go to the sea,” said Charles.

In some cases, desperate fisherfolk from Thiruvananthapuram and other districts have been partially repairing their boats and venturing into the water – a risk they are forced to take to make ends meet.

Angry at bureaucratic delays, fishing associations got in touch with the Fisheries Department to demand the release of the funds. A meeting has been convened on September 24 with the State Fisheries Minister to discuss the issue.

"We were lauded as the army of the state, and given medals and honours. We don't need any of those, we need money to fix our boats and go back to the sea. The government owes us this," Peter added.

Electricity
Due to the hilly terrain and lack of approach roads, electric poles cannot be set up in the region and hence solar panels are being set up, Tangedo officials told TNM.
  • Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - 11:53
Image for representation only

Three tribal settlements in Tamil Nadu’s Erode district were electrified for the first time, seven decades after independence. The Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco), installed automatic lighting systems at Malliamman Durgham in Kadambur hills, Ramaranai in Talamalai and Kathirimalai in Bargur hills by fitting 226 solar panels costing a little over Rs 23 lakhs, according to The Hindu.

The settlements located in hilly areas have no road connectivity. And apart from one settlement - Malliamman Durgham - which was electrified earlier but lost the poles to a forest fire in 1970, the other colonies were receiving electricity for the first time. Houses were lit up in the night using kerosene lamps and those who owned electronic devices such as television could never use them. Lack of electricity even reportedly forced families to move to other areas. 

"The tribal hamlets are located in hilly areas with no approach roads to the houses. There are just hilly tracts to these houses. So it is difficult to provide conventional electricity as the poles and other equipment will have to be physically carried to the place. Even for solar power, the panels, batteries and other equipment had to be carried by hand," said Chandrasekharan, Chief Engineer, Tangedco in Erode.

According to reports, the hamlets can only be reached after a two to four hour walk.

"We are providing three LED lights and one charging point for each house," Chandrasekaran added.

So far, 124 solar panels have been installed at Malliamman Durgham in Kadambur, 18 panels at Ramaranai in Talamalai and 85 panels at Kathirimalai in the Bargur hills. The electrification will be done in phases with all houses being covered in the project. 

Vandalism
The incident occurred on Monday, on the occasion of Periyar’s 140th birth anniversary celebrations.
  • Monday, September 17, 2018 - 20:14

A Madras High Court advocate and alleged member of the BJP in Tamil Nadu was arrested on Monday, for an act of vandalism, which involved hurling a shoe at the Periyar statue on Mount Road in Chennai. Monday happens to be Dravidian ideologue EV Ramasamy, popularly known as Periyar’s 140th birth anniversary.

The accused, who has been identified as Jagadeesan (32), hurled a shoe at the statue which was being garlanded on the occasion of Periyar’s anniversary celebrations.

“The incident occurred at 9:45 am at the Periyar statue opposite Simpson’s on Mount Road. The accused was on his way to court when he witnessed the garlanding of the statue and the celebrations. He stopped and stepped down from his two-wheeler, moved close to the statue and hurled a shoe after announcing that he was against the leader’s ideologies,” said Murugesan, Inspector, Chintadripet F1 police station.

The incident was condemned by DMK President MK Stalin who said, “At a time when Tamil Nadu is showing gratitude to the man has shed light on self respect, the ideologies of social justice are being shattered, the feeling of unity is being undermined - religious fanatics are disrespecting the statue of Periyar. We condemn this.”

Jagadeesan was arrested immediately following the incident and a case has been registered in the Chintadripet F1 police. He has been booked under stations under sections 153 A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 294 b (singing reciting or uttering  any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place), 506 (1) (Punishment for criminal intimidation).

Sexual Assault
Contrary to the statement by Diocese of Jalandhar, sources in the Church say the Bishop’s ‘request’ is forced, as the Vatican would anyway demand his resignation before his arrest.
  • Monday, September 17, 2018 - 12:27

Amid rising protests by five nuns to get Franco Mulakkal, the rape-accused Bishop of Jalandhar, arrested, the Diocese of Jalandhar has announced that the accused Bishop has written to the Pope and requested to be temporarily relieved from his administrative duties in the diocese.

A statement put out by the Diocese on Sunday, September 16, read, “Bishop Franco Mulakkal wrote a letter to Holy Father Pope Francis expressing his desire to step aside temporarily and requested to be relieved from the administration of the Diocese in the background of the court’s opinion in favour of Bishop Franco, which says, there is a lack of adequate evidence for the Bishop’s arrest, indicating his innocence. He decided on his own to make the request to the Holy Father. He is confident that his request will be accepted by the Vatican.”

The statement by the Diocese of Jalandhar is a temporary measure in response to huge protests calling for the Bishop’s arrest that are set to take place in Kochi today.

Sources in the Church tell TNM that the Bishop’s resignation is not a voluntary one, but a forced one. “The accused Bishop is convinced that he will be booked and will be arrested in the case. It is learned that the Vatican seeks his resignation before the arrest,” a senior priest from the Ernakulam-Angamali archdiocese tells TNM.

“The Bishop’s resignation is seen as a bid to save face amid rumours that the Vatican would formally oust him. If found innocent, there are still chances of him returning to his post,” the priest further stated.

Other sources have confirmed that no response has been received yet from the Vatican yet.

The Bishop of Jalandhar has been accused of raping a 44-year-old nun multiple times between 2014 and 2016. Following a complaint by the survivor, investigations have been ongoing for 78 days now. However, no arrests have been recorded in the case yet.

If the Bishop is arrested, the Vatican will demand his resignation as per usual procedure.

The Kerala High Court, on September 13, declined to order the arrest of the Bishop despite mounting public pressure citing the Kerala police’s reports of discrepancies in the statements of people.

Following the High Court’s decision, five nuns of the Missionaries of Jesus have been protesting outside its premises to get the accused arrested for seven days now.

Amid the ongoing protest, the Bishop been has been summoned by the Kerala police on Wednesday for questioning. Ahead of his journey to Kerala, the Bishop handed over official duties to a senior priest, Matthew Kokkandam, for the time that he is away.

(With inputs from Sandeep Vellaram) 

Kerala Flood Relief
Out of 20 tribal families from Anamala, who were camped at a school in Wayanad, seven were allotted land owned by another school, while 13 continue to live with existing provisions at the relief camp.
  • Saturday, September 01, 2018 - 12:14

For almost three weeks, the Ekalavya Model Residential School for Indian tribals at Pookode in Wayanad became home to 20 tribal families from Anamala, an uphill area that was sealed off by the government, following landslides in the region on August 8. The high school building, where the residents are put up, is equipped with basic necessities. Desks are turned into makeshift beds, ropes hang across the classroom to dry clothes and toilets at the school have turned into bathrooms. Local bodies and private groups have provided them with bedsheets, blankets pillows, clothes, water and biscuits.

"We reached here (the camp) on August 9. Last week, seven families have moved out of this camp. They were allotted land to set up their tents on a parcel of land owned by Navodaya Vidyalaya. The rest of us are waiting to be assigned land," said Bindu (39), who lives in the camp.

All 20 families, who had moved to the Pookode relief camp on August 9, were long-time residents of Anamala, near Lakkidi, in Wayanad.

Recounting their shift to the camp, Bindu said, "We were given this land as part of a dairy project by the Department of Animal Husbandry. We worked on this project. On August 8, the landslides occurred during the night, cutting off access to Anamala from other areas. We placed our elderly on chairs and moved them to safer locations. Most of our houses have been destroyed and some of us were in the process of building new houses in the colony."

The landslide forced the tribal community to bid farewell to their homes forever, as the prospects of going back are close to nil.

"The colony is still cut off from the mainland as mud and rocks have not been cleared. Some of us wanted to go back and bring back some basic items such as vessels and clothes, but the Collectorate has issued an order, prohibiting us from going back as it is dangerous. The Revenue Department has even promised us a few cents of land nearby to set up new houses after we leave the camp," Bindu's mother, Leela (60) told TNM.

However, until a new land is assigned, the relief camp remains home and residents try to co-exist peacefully.

"Proper beds have been provided to the bedridden and we have placed them near the entrance of the school. All of us share five or six bathrooms in the school. We dispose of the food and other waste that we generate in deep pits dug inside the compound. The food was being provided by Navodaya school until today August 27. We will manage with tea, bread and biscuits that we already have in stock. Hopefully, they will shift us from here soon. Until then, we are adjusting and trying to live together happily," Bindu added.

This article has been produced in partnership with Oxfam India. In the last 10 years, Oxfam India has delivered over 36 impactful humanitarian responses in India. Oxfam India is providing critical relief to the affected families and communities in Kerala: clean drinking water, sanitation, and shelter kits. Click here to help #RebuildKerala.