Salutation To A Brave Soul Who Valiantly Fought Her Honor
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
They came in large number with their OB vans, photographers and anchor persons. Much before she could come and join the press, the hall at the Indian Social Institute in Delhi was fully overcrowded. Every body present thought that for that day there was enough 'news' to spread the TRPs. I had never seen such a 'concern' from the commercial media for the communal violence against the Christians, so it was quite surprising that the popular faces of the TV were there to broadcast live the 'historic' press conference.
Yes, I am talking about Sister Meena, an Adivasi nun who was raped by the Hindutva's thugs in kandhamal district of Orissa On August 24th. In her statement made to the press She said, "
On August 24th, around 4:30 pm, hearing the shouting of a large crowd, at the gate of Divyajyoti Pastoral Centre, I ran out through the back door and escaped to the forest along with others. We saw our house going up in flames. Around 8:30 pm we came out of the forest and went to the house of a Hindu gentleman who gave us shelter.
On 25th August, around1:30 pm,the mob entered the room where I was staying in that house, one of them stopped me on my face, caught my hair and pulled me out of the house. Two of them were holding my neck to cut off my head with axe. Others told them to take me out to the road; I saw Fr. Chellan also being taken out and being beaten. The mob consisting of 40–50 men was armed with lathis, axes, spades, crowbars, iron–rods, sickles etc. They took both of us to the main road. Then they led us to the burnt down Janavikas building saying that they were going to throw us into the smouldering fire.
When we reached the Janavikas building, they threw me to the verandah on the way to the dining room which was full of ashes and broken glass pieces. One of them tore my blouse and others my undergarments. Father Chellan protested and they beat him and pulled him out from there. They pulled out my saree and one of the stepped on my right hand and another on my left hand and then a third person raped me on the verandah mentioned above. When it was over, I managed to get up and put my petticoat and saree. Then another young man caught me and took me to a room near the staircase. He opened his pants and was attempting to rape me when they reached there.
I hid myself under the staircase. The crowd was shouting "where is that sister, come let us rape her, at least 100 people should rape." They found me under the staircase and took me out to the road. There I saw Fr. Chellan was kneeling down and the crowd was beating him. They were searching for a rope to tie us both of us together to burn us in fire. Someone suggested to make us parade naked. They made us walk on the road till Nuagoan market which was half a kilometer from there. They made to fold our hands and walk. I was with petticoat and saree as they had already torn away my blouse and undergarments. They tried to strip even there and I resisted and they went on beating me with hands on my cheeks and head and with sticks on my back several times.
I am not putting the entire text which is already available to various websites where the nun says openly how the police never protected her and it was not even doing its basic duty of filing her FIR. Instead, it discouraged her from doing so. Her horror story moved every one but more than that was her immense courage to come in the forefront against the guilty who are being protected by the inefficient and corrupt state government of Orissa. For the past one year, the Hindutva's hate campaign against the Christian missionaries in Orissa and other parts of the country have not resulted in anything. Despite the terror the work of these communities in the far flung areas of the country is praise worthy. Despite all the blames of evangelism, the work of the missionaries in the poor communities in India is unparallel. No one can deny the fact that such an enormous amount of work particularly in the health and educational sector in India is much disproportionate to the number of the community in the country, which denied education to large part of the its masses named as Dalit-Bahujans and an educational set up dominated by brahmanical elites of the country.
Orissa's horror story did not end in frightening the community workers. It is terror in all the forms. From burning the churches, demolishing their holy book, to attacking the social institutions of the community and even when such things fails to dampen the spirit of the community then the final assault. And the final assault is in the form of molestation, rape and indignity heaped upon women and men both. It is beyond shock that such mishaps of history are defended shamelessly on the television channels and widely circulated internet debates.
So, it was refreshing to see a large number of media persons to show their concern when they received an intimation for the press conference of Sister Meena. The timing was accurate at 2 pm. But the entire media was much before the organizers could make it there. The TV Cameras, the photographers, the anchors cum reporters, every one was settling for the final moments. There were cries from behind where the full team of camera persons were ready to 'shoot' the minutes details. The still photographers were preparing for the final assault.
Around 2 pm, as Father Dominic Emanuel came and announced modalities of the press conference saying that the sister would read her statement to the press and nothing more and nothing less. He made it clear that no further question would be taken in this regard as the sister was not in a position to speak and also the matter was subjudice.
The journalists, particularly from the electronic media were shocked as they thought of having an 'exclusive' interview with sister. They thought that the sister would give them lucid details of the incidents and then they would run it for several days like what they have been doing regarding Arushi murder case or Jessica Lal murder case. They perhaps forgot that a victim of the feudal communal mindset in India need a lot more than just courage to speak to the national media. Even when many of the Sangh Parivar people say that the charges of rapes were false, I do not want to comment on the hired pen-pushers who do not have the courage to come open and accept that something horrible has happened. The sister's narration moved every one who understands that how a woman mustered courage to speak of her plight to the 'national' media. It is time to stand with her and provide her mental support. We all know what happened to kandhamal and that if Hindu Rastra becomes a reality in this country, it would be a Kandhamal kind of rastra. Remember, a Hindu Rastra would be a great calamity for India, warned Ambedkar.
The irony is that some of the Church people from Orissa went and met Mr Lal Krishna Advani, just a few days before nun's press conference and Advani in turn expressed his 'gratitude' to the missionaries as how he studied in Christian schools. He then went on to condemn the incident of rape on the nun and said that there should be dialogue among all the religion. Now, somebody, should have told Advani that this is not a question of dialogue but bringing culprits to the book. Those who initiate such a dialogue with a criminal gang are criminal and have betrayed their very cause. The nun has her original identity as a tribal from Orissa and it is important to understand that she paid a price of her faith. Sangh Parivar's loyal intellectuals would always like to debate and then justify their positions after each event. If we continue to legitimize them by initiating a dialogue with them we make them representative of non Christians-non Muslim population of India which is highly objectionable. The Muslims and the Christians who initiative such a fake religious dialogue with them must be isolated and boycotted.
Finally, the sister arrived with her face covered with mask escorted by responsible friends like John Dayal and others but see the rush among the photographers. They heckled with each other to take photograph of the nun with different angle. It was just shocking to see how they were just fighting to take per photographs as if it was a photo session with a Bombay beauty queen. There was no understanding that a victim of the fascist onslaught was here to explain her plight. In a civilized society a victim of a such a horrible act would have found enough people from media and civil society speaking on her behalf but the scandalous silence of these sections of the society, added with Sangh Parivar's assertion that she was lying as if a woman is very happy to say that she was raped, compelled the sister to speak to the media. It is further when the state government and its police which was unable to protect the nun from the humiliation. The state government wanted her to identity the accused in Orissa itself without giving her due protection. It needs not to be elaborated here how Orissa and Kandhamal district in particular have become an area where Christians are being targeted and hounded. And the government's inaction has further deteriorated the situation with Christians still finding it difficult to return their home. In such a scenario when the media has no time to follow up their own stories, a brave woman speak her plight should have been welcomed. A society where the victim is asked to prove her innocence can not be termed as civilized society and those who claim for it must hang their head in shame. We must admit that we live in one of the most brutal society and the only civilized thing about us is our civilized constitution without being effectively used to protect its citizens who need it.
Many in the crowd said that there was nothing wrong in photographers taking the photos in such a way. It was great that media was present but it should properly think that not everything is meant to strengthen your TRPs. A person's plight needs to be heard properly. If you need to take photographs to do your 'professional' duty, do it with grace, understanding the importance and seriousness of the issue. I know these days the TV cameras are everywhere even when the dead bodies go from the family and the reporters are asking the family people ' how are you feeling'. But it is not just media fault. People are also eager to see their faces on TV and print so we see they do 'speak' on the camera how 'great' their dear one was.
One thing is clear that the friends in support of Sister including CBCI need our solidarity for not making this incident cheap and vulgar. Friends like John Dayal and others handled this issue graciously and did not allow the 'crazy' media anything that would be termed a cheap publicity. Secondly, by supporting the sister's courageous act of speaking to the nation her plight and her conviction to get justice, need to be encouraged. In this country the exploiters, rapists, and all those anti social elements get away with the law because the victims are victimized more than the tormentors. The Christian community has shown their great courage by siding with the sister. Let the media put pressure on the government of Orissa as well as the central government to act on the issue fast and get the sister a justice. Tragically, nothing has happened and the media will wait for another juicy story to which can raise their TRPs and the Hindutva terror would go unabated all over the country and the victims of this terror would rarely find space in our national media unless there is some 'masala' in it. One sincerely hope that with this press conference, the media will understand that serious issues need to be tackled seriously and they are not here to get more advertisement and market their channels. Let us see how many of them turn up to cover the issues if the CBCI organize another press conference related to violence against Christians in any part of the country. One hope the editors are listening and will do the needful. One can only hope that such atrocious and tedious process of law will not demoralize her further. Let us salute her spirit to get justice. Let us stand with her in this hour of crisis. Let us hope she get justice so that our faith in the institution of law remains intact.