“We are with you sister, you are not alone in this battle, we all know that you are fighting this battle for each and every woman who silently suffered sexual assault and for everyone who is a potential victim,” said an online letter addressed to the Kerala nun of the Kuruvilangadu convent, the rape survivor in the Bishop Franco Mulakkal case.
On January 14, the Kottayam Additional District and Sessions Court-I acquitted the Bishop on the grounds that the complainant, the nun, could not be “categorised as a sterling witness” in view of her inconsistent statements. Apart from her testimony, the judge added, there was no corroborative evidence to prove the prosecution case. The judgment dwells on the delay in the filing of the FIR and how it has impacted the investigation and prosecution in the case.
The “shocking” verdict created an uproar across the country as most people had expected the Bishop to be convicted. A former judge even termed the verdict as a “miscarriage of justice”.
The ‘Write a letter to our sister’ campaign took off at 11 am on Wednesday (January 19), the same time the judgment on the Kerala nun case was pronounced on January 14. Film stars and directors, journalists, lawyers and hundreds of people joined the campaign by posting their handwritten letters expressing solidarity to the rape survivor and the fellow nuns who supported her.
The letters are being sent to a mail id, which is being handled by a group of women. A print out is taken of all the letters and handed over to the nuns by a few volunteers.
The campaign that started across all social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter and Insta at 11 am went viral in a few hours. Actors and filmmakers such as Geetu Mohandas, Rima Kallingal, Parvathy Thiruvothu and Leena Manimekalai, Malayalam writer K R Meera, Jeo Baby, the director of Great Indian Kitchen, veteran journalists such as Ammu Joseph and Laxmi Murthy are some of the well-known figures who joined the campaign and posted their handwritten letters on social media.
“In my deepest dark moments, you women have inspired me. I have felt the presence of your heart and fight lift my spirits. Will never be able to thank you all enough for this new chapter in Kerala’s and world’s history”, wrote actor Rima Kallingal in her letter posted on her social media page.
While Moothon director Geetu Mohandas wrote on Instagram: “A note of gratitude, a Thank you…For standing up and fighting for your injustice. For standing tall to tell your story where many have been silenced…It will by no means be an easy task, but you can, and indeed, you will survive this journey…We are with you”.
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K R Meera, the renowned Malayalam writer in her handwritten note to the nuns, said: “You have won, even if you are defeated in court, because you have created new history. The future generations will talk about your fight – the hard battles you have fought and your sufferings. Your story is the story of sisterhood of our times”.
In solidarity with the nun tagging #Avalkoppam, filmmaker Leena Manimekalai tweeted, “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women, says Maya Angelou. Your voice is ours, your strength is our lantern, with you and your battle in this long road for justice”.
— Leena Manimekalai (@LeenaManimekali) January 19, 2022
Parvathy Thiruvothu, actor and Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) member concluded her two-page letter with these lines: “We are here to walk this thorny path with you, holding space for you, fighting for you and breathing with you in a world that has gotten used to treat us as dispensable nothings”.
Meanwhile, a veteran journalist Ammu Joseph wrote on her Facebook page: “I personally have no doubt that Jesus is by your side and by the side of the sisters who have bravely and steadfastly stood by you – just as he was consistently on the side of the poor and the powerless in his lifetime. In solidarity with you as you continue to fight the good fight”.
In her complaint to the police in June 2018, the nun had alleged that she was subjected to sexual abuse by the former bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar, Franco Mulakkal between 2014 and 2016. The Special Investigation Team, which probed the case, arrested the Bishop in September 2018 and charged him with wrongful confinement, rape, unnatural sex and criminal intimidation.
The trial in the case, which started in November 2019, had concluded on January 10. On January 14, in a 289-page verdict, the Additional Sessions Judge G Gopkakumar declared Mulikkal not guilty.