Three centuries ago Jonathan Swift remarked that the law is like a spider web. The small flies will get caught, while the bigger ones will rip it apart and fly away.
The murder case of Sister Abhaya vindicates Swift.
Sister Abhaya was murdered in the Pius X Convent, Kottayam, Kerala on 27 March 1992. In spite of the frantic efforts of the nun’s family members and many social organisations to obtain justice, the murderers remained at large during the last 17 years. The reason: the murderers were big flies that could rip apart the web of justice.
Now, 17 years after the murder took place, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a charge sheet against the three murderers. All three of them are religious by profession: Father Jose, Father Thomas and Sister Sephy. Sister Abhaya was murdered with a hatchet. The charge sheet says that Sister Abhaya who came into the kitchen early in the morning to take drinking water found the two priests and the nun in a compromising position and hence she was knocked down with a hatchet and later her unconscious body thrown into the well of the convent. The young nun died in the well. The Catholic Church in Kerala used all its power and glory to get this case written off as a suicide. The victim’s father, however, continued his struggle for justice. He seems to be successful after 17 years of struggle against a powerful nexus of religion and politics.
Those who followed the television reports about this case in the last few months must have been struck by the serene demeanour of the three accused as they walked along with the police personnel holding a rosary in their hand with its crucifix held aloft as if it were an Olympic torch. One police officer who manipulated the enquiries in favour of the accused committed suicide a few months back when he could not bear his guilt any more. There are also rumours that the Church might have had a hand in this officer’s death too. It is more likely that he committed suicide unable to carry the burden of his guilt. An ordinary layman – in terms of the Church’s hierarchy – couldn’t bear his guilt of manipulating the truth. But the priests and the nun who committed the heinous crime looked as serene as angels all through!
I have seen hundreds of Catholic priests in my life. I have never seen a priest carrying a rosary openly in the hand. The picture of Father Jose and Father Thomas as well as Sister Sephy carrying their rosaries refuses to fade from my mind. Having committed a vicious crime and evaded the law for two decades, now they have the temerity to hoodwink the public by playing on their religious sentiments with the exhibition of a crucifix! The charge sheet also says that the two villainous priests were notorious for their relationships with women.
The serenity displayed by the three criminals makes us wonder how hard their hearts must be. The face is said to be the mirror of the heart. Those who can conceal their heart so effectively as these three must be hardcore criminals. But they were exhorting thousands of people from their pulpits during their last two guilt-ridden decades to be good Christians, I guess.
Let me paraphrase Swift: Religion is like a spider web. The small flies get caught in it while the big ones sit in the centre ready to pounce upon the trapped ones.