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Saturday, August 13, 2022

Lavanya in 2022, Sukanya in 2006- BJP seeks justice for victims of physical, sexual and mental abuse in Christian schools

Tamil Nadu BJP has taken up the case of a Hindu girl who was reportedly killed by Catholic priests and nuns in a Christian school in Salem in 2006. Drawing parallels between the 2006 incident and the current incident in Thanjavur, TNBJP has sought investigation into the functioning of such Christian institutions.

TNBJP president K.Annamalai (ex-IPS) had shared a video on January 28 regarding the issue of a 17 year old girl, Lavanya, killing herself unable to stand the pressure to convert. The Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School in Michaelpatti, Thanjavur where she studied was founded and run by the congregation of Franciscan Sisters of Immaculate Heart of Mary(FIHM). The school management says that the girl could have taken her life because she was ill treated by her step mother and rejected any conversion angle. But the girl had given a dying declaration that she was asked to convert to Christianity upon refusing which she was made to clean toilets, hostel rooms and do other menial jobs.

The issue has taken the state by storm and BJP, supporting the girl’s family has brought the issue to national media as well. As TNBJP continues to protest against police and the DMK government’s attempts to suppress the conversion angle, K.Annamalai had tweeted about a similar incident from 2006. He posted a video which draws parallels between the past and current incidents and seeks justice for both victims.

In the old incident, a 17 year old Hindu girl named Sukanya went missing from the grounds of a boarding school Fatima Matriculation School in Omalur, Salem on November 16, 2006. Her body was found floating in the well in the school complex 2 days later. Initially, police had dismissed it as a suicide case. But people came to know that she was raped and murdered to hide it and ransacked the school.

There were many protests against police dismissing it as a suicide and even Congress, the ally of DMK which was in power then, had staged a hunger protest demanding the arrest of those who raped and killed Sukanya in 2010. Due to continued protests, the case was handed over to CB-CID. It found that there were discrepancies in the earlier investigation. Sperm was found in the vaginal swab during the autopsy which came to light after CB-CID took over the case.

It also brought out information that Kohinoor condom packs and foreign liquor bottles were found in the hostel and other places inside the school premises. Students told police that they were made to clean blood on the wall of a classroom. When asked about it Singarayan, the then bishop of Salem diocese said it was the blood of a mouse bitten by a cat. Flowers used to wear on hair were also found in the classroom which the bishop dismissed by saying “it’s ordinary for flowers to be found in a girls school”. But students and locals claimed that the school didn’t allow wearing flowers and bangles.

condom packs and liquor bottles found inside the school campus in Omalur

Allegations of severe nature like beautiful girl students were made to serve “refreshments” to visiting Padres from other dioceses, sometimes even other states. Allegedly these padres used to “enjoy” the company of nuns on the weekends. After Sukanya’s death even more skeletons tumbled out as All India Scheduled Caste Youth Association’s state secretary filed a complaint with the Salem DGP that orphans residing and studying at the Fatima Matriculation School often go missing. He alleged that many such orphans have taken their life and some were murdered and buried inside the school campus. There was a demand to exhume the bodies of such victims and conduct an autopsy.

CB-CID, which took over the case, suspected 8 persons, including Catholic priests, 6 of whom were more than 50 years old. A priest working as a teacher in the school was found in posession of condoms and pornographic content. CB-CID planned to get blood samples of the suspects and test the sperm in used condoms to match them with the contents of the vaginal swab. But nothing came out of it and no justice has been served to Sukanya till date.

Protesting public alleged that many girls, Chinnamma, Indira, Kaveri and then Sukanya died under mysterious circumstances. Parents of Chinnamma, one of the victims, said that one day they heard that their daughter was locked up inside a room and beaten. They went to get her but she was found floating in a nearby lake a few days later.  Similarly the parents of Kaveri, who died around a month before Sukanya, said that their child had no problems but all of a sudden one day they received a call from the school saying that their daughter was dead.

Despite so many instances and details coming to light, no action was taken on the school and it functions normally till today. The then bishop of Salem diocese famously said that the government cannot touch any of the school staff as it is a minority institution and that if they really want, the school management will transfer 2 persons. FIHM runs scores of schools across the country. FIHM has 5 FCRA registered organisations in Pondicherry alone.

1)Immaculate Boarding Convent, PY/285130009

2)Immaculate Heart of Mary Society Generalate, PY/285130024

3)Immaculate Heart of Mary Social Service Society, PY/285130027

4)Immaculate Heart of Mary Convent, PY/285130011

5)Immaculate Heart of Mary Society, PY/285130017

Both the schools of Lavanya and Sukanya are girls boarding schools and run by Catholic nuns. While we hear and report a lot about sexual abuse by male Catholic priests, the issue of sexual abuse at the hand of nuns hardly comes out. In Bharat where the church and its political partners control most of the MSM, reporting about male priests’ abuse itself is unusual. But in western countries hundreds of thousands of people came out about sexual abuse in church during the #metoo issue. At that time child sexual abuse by Catholic nuns also came to light.

Global Sisters Report brought out many such incidents and the Franciscan nuns also figure in the list. It reported that “women religious, globally, outnumber priests by more than 2,00,000”. It appears pedophilia is not gender based when it comes to the Catholic church. It should be noted that Lavanya’s step-mother and grandmother have alleged that the nuns took her to churches and convents away from her school campus. Now that the Madurai bench of Madras High Court has directed Lavanya’s case to be handed over to CBI, this angle should also be investigated. Similarly Sukanya’s case should be reopened and handed over to CBI to serve her justice.

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