Their food rationed and money for medicines denied, Sister Anupama, one of the nuns who protested against Bishop Franco, considers the transfer orders served to her and the other nuns an act of vengeance. She speaks exclusively to The Lede.
“Nowadays, they don’t buy enough milk and grocery items in the convent. There would be just enough milk to make two teas per person. If we need a third one, there would be no milk. The same is the case with other grocery items. Everything is rationed for us. They also denied us money to buy medicines when we were sick. Earlier, it was not like that…
These were the words of Sister Anupama Kelamangalathuveliyil, one of the five nuns who came out openly in support of their superior nun who alleged that she was repeatedly raped by Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal.
“If somebody comes to meet us, we are not in a position to even offer a milk tea. And when we fall sick, we have to approach our families to foot the medical bills. Every single day has become a struggle for us. The only ‘mistake’ we made is that we stood by the rape survivor,” Sister Anupama told The Lede in an exclusive interview.
In June 2018, a 43-year-old nun, also a Mother Superior then at the Kuravilangadu Missionaries of Jesus Congregation, had lodged a complaint at the Kottayam Police station in Kerala, alleging that Bishop Mulakkal raped her at a guest house in Kuravilangadu in May 2014, and later sexually exploited her on several occasions.
The nun said she had to approach the police as church authorities did not act on her repeated complaints against the clergyman.
However, in September, the Missionaries of Jesus Congregation had alleged that the victim, along with five nuns and four others, plotted against the Bishop to frame him in the Kerala rape case.
The Congregation had also earlier alleged that the Kerala nun had “questionable relations with a local taxi driver” and “a physical relationship with a relative’s husband”.
As the rape survivor nun was reportedly not getting any justice, Sister Alphy Pallasseril, Sister Anupama Kelamangalathuveliyil, Sister Josephine Villoonnickal, and Sister Ancitta Urumbil and Sister Nina Rose came out openly in her support.
Under the banner of ‘Save Our Sister’, the five sisters staged a protest in Kochi near the Kerala High Court, seeking justice.
Following the protest, Bishop Franco was interrogated by the Kerala Special Investigation Team (SIT).
In a letter, the rape survivor nun had urged the Vatican to intervene in the matter and to remove Franco as the head of Jalandhar diocese.
Following this, the Bishop was temporarily relieved of his pastoral responsibilities.
The bishop was then arrested by the Kerala police, but granted bail on October 15, 2018 after 21 days.
Interestingly, when Franco returned to Jalandhar on October 18, he was given a ‘grand’ welcome by the Diocese of Jalandhar, including the nuns.
Currently, a case is being heard in the Kerala High Court.
Meanwhile, Sister Alphy, Sister Anupama, Sister Josephine and Sister Ancitta Urumbil have been slapped with orders (see photo, below) to vacate the convent. Sister Nina has not been directed to vacate.
The orders from Missionaries of Jesus Superior General reveals that Sister Anupama has been asked to return to Chamiyari community in Punjab; Sister Ancitta has been asked to join the Pariyaram community in Kannur, Kerala; Sister Alphy has been asked to join the Pakartala community in Bihar; and Sister Josephine, who was appointed as Superior at the Lalmatia community in Jharkhand, has also been asked to return.
The letter reads: “You have chosen in your individual capacity to support and pursue the legal battle seeking justice. The MJ Congregation and its members do not intend to make any sort of intervention or interference into the due process of law and justice and you will be free to carry on the judicial pursuit.”
Talking about the transfer orders, Sister Anupama said that they were an attempt to split them up and destabilise them mentally and emotionally.
“This is in fact a copy of the letter that we received in March last year, the transfer order asking us to return to our respective convents. Now they have sent this letter as a disciplinary action against us. We are not going anywhere until the case is over and unless our sister (the raped nun) is served justice. We are not leaving this place. This order comes at a time when they cannot even give us proper protection in the Convent. We do not have any guarantee that the people who are not protecting us here, will give us protection in any other place like Bihar or Punjab,” Sister Anupama said.
In October 2018, a few days after Franco was given a bail, a priest who had taken a stand against him was found dead in Jalandhar under mysterious circumstances.
Fr Kuriakose Kattuthara, 62, was found dead inside his room on the premises of St Paul’s Convent School at Dasuya in Hoshiarpur, where he was posted. There were no injuries on Fr Kuriakose’s body, but there were signs that he had vomited.
Family members of Fr Kuriakose had alleged foul play in his death.
Sister Anupama added that they (the Church) are claiming that they do not have money and that they do not have any obligation to protect the nuns; how then could they serve the transfer orders and take disciplinary action against them, she wondered.
“We are considering this as an act of vengeance for sure. Many people are supporting Franco. The Missionaries of Jesus, the Syro-Malabar and even the Latin churches are already supporting him; but no one is supporting us, the victims,” Sister Anupama lamented.
When asked what the next step from the MJ would be when the transfer letters are ignored, she said that the next would be warning letters and if they ignored those as well, then the MJ may strip them off their rights to continue as nuns.
“Whatever they do, we are not going to leave Kerala till the case ends. Let’s see what they can do,” Sister Anupama said.
“They may continue to use all power. But we will continue our fight for justice,” she added.
According to Sister Anupama, they had started a small poultry farm and had planted a few banana trees to earn some money to meet their needs in the convent.
“Unfortunately, that has also been stopped. The workers who came to help us were sent back. Daily, they are finding one reason after another to torture us. They want us to leave. But we won’t till we get justice for our raped nun,” Sister Anupama stated.