THE MARTYRDOM OF SR. VALSA JOHN:
A CHALLENGE TO THE COUNTRY AND TO THE CHURCH
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
In the early hours of Wednesday, 16th November, 2011 in a remote
What is apparently clear is that she was murdered by the coal mining mafia or their henchmen, of the area.
Sr. Valsa John, a Catholic nun belonged to the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary. Since 1995, she had made Pachwari her home and with a high degree of commitment espoused herself to the cause of the Santhali tribals of the area. The tribals there were at the receiving end of a powerful mafia who mined coal there. For the last several years, she had been protesting (together with the tribals) of the way this coal mafia displaced them from what they once called their homes and exploited them in several other ways.
Because of her relentless campaign in 2006, she succeeded in getting for some of the displaced families compensation for their land on current market prices, some employment and even medicare and education for them. However, she continued with her fight against the vested interests because the tribals were still badly off.
That her life was constantly under threat, was without a shadow of doubt. She constantly voiced this to her family, her close friends and even filed an FIR with the local police sometime ago – about the harassment and threats she was subjected to.
Sr. Valsa's martyrdom is indeed a wakeup call for the whole country. Hers is one more death, in a long list of activists be it Amit Jethawa in
The mining lobby has indeed become extremely powerful in the country with plenty of muscle and money. They leave no stone unturned to maximize their greed and profits. Their nexus with the police and the politicians is blatant. They operate with impunity and with very certain immunity. No one dares touch them! Sr. Valsa's death raises larger issues namely, if there is a political will at every level to curb this menace which could only lead to more violence and erode the fundamental rights of ordinary citizens.
Her martyrdom is also a challenge to the Church in
In his last Encyclical letter entitled 'Caritas in Veritate', Pope Benedict XVI emphatically states, "Love – caritas – is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. It is a force that has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth."
The martyrdom of Sr. Valsa John, indeed personifies this statement!
18th November, 2011
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)
Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall,