Friday, November 18, 2011

The Martyrdom of Sr. Valsa John A Challenge to the country and to the Church...18th Nov. 2011




-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*


In the early hours of Wednesday, 16th November, 2011 in a remote village of Pachuwara in the Pakur district of Jharkhand (more than 400 kms from the State capital of Ranchi), Sr. Valsa John was brutally murdered by a mob, in her own home. 


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 Gujarat, or Shehla Masood in Madhya Pradesh who were just eliminated because they took on the powerful mining lobby and other vested interests.


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 India. Christianity in India must be seen very visibly on the side of the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed and the exploited. The Church must accompany the subalterns in very tangible ways in their struggle for a more equitable, just and humane society.  In doing so, the Church should demonstrate an unflinching courage to take on the powerful vested interests, even if it be at the cost of certain privileges it might be receiving from them.  Jesus would have done exactly that!


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, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052

Phone: 79 27455913, 66522333
Fax:  79 27489018






1 comment:

Rahul said...

Shame on the BJP government of Jharkhand. Shame Anna & team so called crusaders against corruption. Illegal mining and mafia control over mines in Jharkhand is rampant. Politicians in Jharkhand have the shares in the illegal mining and also in collusion with mining companies, contractors and mafia. Government has sold off the natural wealth to the mafias. BJP leaders are no better than Madhu Koda.

Imagine the situation; a lone lady is fighting against the powerful mining mafias patronized by politicians and businessmen. Land of the tribals are forcefully taken away by the govt agencies, the mining mafias, and the tribal are left with no land, no water, no electricity and no livelihood. Roads, rail lines, dams, colonies, power centers are build only to help load and transport mines out from the state. Jobs created in the factories and mines are captured by non-tribal. Cities are accommodated with people from outside Jharkhand. Express and passenger trains are run only to facilitated migrated people in the state.

India is growing and progressing, but tribals who lost their land and livelihood are left to live in utter poverty and negligence.

Sacrifice of Sister Valsa John deserve our salutation, and immediate intervention from the civil rights and UN agencies. Anna & team should be ashamed of being selective in fighting corruption and loot of national wealth.