UPDATE (India): An appeal for justice for Sr. Vanaselvi


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-07-2002
ISSUES: Freedom of expression,

INDIA: unfair dismissal, social ostracism, denial of right to livelihood and freedom of expression by Religious Order 

Dear Friends, 

On February 7 we released a special joint urgent appeal with People’s Watch Tamil Nadu regarding the expulsion of Sr. Vanaselvi from the religious congregation Mother of Sorrows Servants of Mary, based in Chennai, India. Sr. Vanaselvi had been a model servant of the poor her entire life before being arrested by the Suramangalam police on baseless allegations. The Superior General of the Order, Sr. Corona Mary, not only dismissed her without warning or discussion while in prison, she also ordered all of the nuns of the congregation to completely ostracise Sr. Vanaselvi. 

We provide here for your information an appeal letter written to Sr. Corona Mary by Bijo Francis, a well respected Legal Advocate working for the village legal reform and human rights organisation ‘Jananeethi’ in Kerala, India. If you wish to also take action on behalf of Sr. Vanaselvi, please see our previous appeal at: www.ahrchk.net 

With thanks for your action, 

Urgent Appeals Desk 
Asian Human Rights Commission 

Dear Sr. Corona Mary, 

It is with great pain and anguish that I mail you this letter. 

I came to know about the arrest and detention and subsequent release of one among your order Sr. Vanalselvi. I understand that the arrest and the entire drama that followed was poorly stage-managed by the police but better than what you have done. I can understand the act of the policia and their pitiful stand at the High Court since the policia in India is nothing new to me. They are persons paid form the government exchequer to execute the demands of the politicians, their henchmen, the rich and the powerful. Whoever stood against this influential beast had no place in the service and were thrown away form action or cornered. 

But I feel it difficult to conceive, neither can I agree with you, whatever be the reasons and excuses be, for expelling Sr. Vanalselvi form your religious order. That too when she required your support the most in her life. Let me express my deep contempt for your impulsive action, which was thoughtless and harsh. The strictures your congregation issued to other members on the arrest of Sr. Vanalselvi, i.e., 1. No one to meet her in jail, 2. Not to have correspondence with her, 3. No community or institution to allow her to enter after her release from jail, 4. Not to comment on the incident or its background to anyone, were even worse than what the police did, while she was detained in custody. 

If no one form the congregation she served her better part of her life were to meet her while she was detained in custody, whom else did you expect to be with her? 

If none were to communicate with her how did you expect her to ventilate her feelings? 

If she is not to be admitted into any of your houses or institutions on release, where else do you expect her to go? 

If your congregation is not to condemn the police atrocity who else will stand by her? 

I believe in a Christ who was a social reformer. I believe in a church which stand by the poor, needy and destitute. I believe in a preaching which is just not a word of mouth but is a catalyst for action. If the members of your congregation are prohibited form social involvement, what else is your congregation standing for? Is it to run Super Specialty Hospitals or High Tech Schools and Colleges or recreation centers? These type of institutions are not scarce in our country. We do not require your pious presence and sacrifice for running and managing these five star institutions. We require people who stand for the needy and poor. 

It was not the acts of Sr. Vanalselvi that has brought disgrace to the Church. It was your thoughtless action, recklessness and absence of patience & sympathy that has brought disgrace to the Catholic Church. If you do not believe in a system that gives an opportunity to be heard even to a hard core culprit, what else is your ideology or sense of justice? Sister, your decision have proved itself to be an example of gross miscarriage of justice and your response was a blatant denial of Human Rights. I am yet to know a Jesus who preached not to visit the prisoner & not to care for the wrong doer. He was worried about the lost lamb and was ready to sacrifice the rest to find the missing one. 

You refer to Canon 703 in your dismissal letter. Have you ever cared to read the corresponding provisions before and after that? Have you followed the dictums before arriving at the decision and finally communicating the order of dismissal? I doubt. Had you been praying for a peaceful life for Sr. Vanalselvi, dear sister, your prayer has been heard. 

Dear sister, your action and your letter was defying all principles of natural justice and a blatant denial of human rights. Sr. Vanalselvi will not be left alone in her fight. It was not the news of her arrest which has attracted the attention of the world, but let you know, it was your reaction to the arrest which has attracted the world community. 

I urge you to immediately withdraw your statement circulated in your congregation and to unconditionally withdraw the order of dismissal with a letter of apology for your thoughtlessness. 

Thanking you 
Bijo Francis 

Bijo Francis 
Advocate, Neelankavil, No. 1. Santhi Nagar 
Thrissur, Kerala, India. Post Code. 680 003.

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-07-2002
Countries : India,
Issues : Freedom of expression,