Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Will Sister Lucy Kalapura get the justice she deserves?

The jubilant celebrations of Dussehra have come to an end. The celebration is an annual reminder of how an evil demon king was killed by the powerful Goddess Durga. An important subliminal message the Mahishasura story sends out is about how men often underestimate women only to have a rude awakening. Mahishasura had asked for a boon that his death (if at all) should only be at the hands of a woman. The sexist asura king couldn't imagine that any woman could be a match to his immeasurable strength and this arrogance made him believe such a boon would ensure him immortality! When his atrocities reached a pinnacle, Goddess Parvathi took the avatar of Maa Durga who hunted him down, tiring him over a period of ten days before eventually killing him. Peace was restored and people rejoice it to this day. 

What makes this story relevant to these times is that there are men who go mad with the power, influence and wealth they have amassed. They harass, intimidate and create trouble for people around until someone channelizes their inner shakti and stands up against this aggression. The #MeToo movement that took an international avatar is a great example of how the modern Mahishasuras have been called out. From Weinstein and Epstein to MJ Akbar, Nana Patekar, Sajid Khan in our backyard, several prominent names tumbled out. The ground shook and the mighty fell hard. 

However, the fight is far from over like how Sr. Lucy Kalapura’s continued resistance against the Church has shown. Sister Lucy Kalpura came into the spotlight when she publicly protested the rape accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal. It is another matter that Franco Mulakkal who was accused of raping a nun thirteen times between 2014 to 2016 managed to easily get bail over a year ago and subsequent bail extensions have been granted despite several nuns voicing their protest against him. One must remember the rape accused bishop received a hero’s welcome with garlands and rose petals. The brazen show of power only got more pronounced as within a few days a key witness in this case, Father Kuriakose Kattuthara was found dead under mysterious circumstances.

Recently a close aide of bishop Franco Mullakal was arrested by Punjab police after cash worth Rs 9.66 crore, allegedly hawala money, was recovered from him. Soon after, the Clarist congregation dismissed Sr. Lucy Kalapura on the flimsy grounds of living a life against the style and substance of the congregation. The serious lifestyle violations in the letter referred to the nun having obtained a legal driving license, acquiring a car for her travel on her personal earnings and wearing civilian clothes (churidhar) while joining a protest march. The letter claimed that the dismissal followed Sister Lucy’s failure to heed “canonical warnings”.  

Strangely apart from a few stray articles, the Indian mainstream media has not taken up the case of Sister Lucy at a national level nor has there been any outcry from the feminist organizations in the country for the systematic harassment meted out against the nun. From circulating vulgar, doctored videos, making defamatory commentary on the 55 year old nun, the church has made her life a living hell. And instead of calling out this institutionalized mistreatment of a woman, the church authorities, the state machinery and the media have been obnoxiously silent without a whimper of remonstration. It must be the divine mother Durga who has probably instilled this untold courage in Sister Lucy to put up continued resistance and an untiring fight for justice.

The case of Sister Lucy can hardly be termed an exception. Though there have been several high profile cases including the murder of Sister Abhaya or Sister Susan they have failed to make a dent against the patriarchal church and the stronghold of its male members on the institution. The government and state machinery turn a blind eye to the transgressions in a minority community, possibly afraid of being accused of religious persecution.  In this land of Shakti, Parvati and Durga, there are women like Sister Lucy who has been compelled to fight a lonely battle. It is a matter of deep remorse that in this digital age of accessible information and in a country that has pledged considerable space for freedom of expression, the self-censorship and reluctance of the media in taking up the case of selective victims, shows the crumbling levels of commitment to ethics and integrity.

Will this country that honors its women by acceding her the status of a Devi or a Goddess stand in solidarity with Sister Lucy Kulapura in her fight for justice?  Will the modern Mahishasuras get punished or go scot free?  

First published in 

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