Indian nun accuses bishop charged with rape of slander campaign

Nun seeks legal action against Bishop Franco Mulakkal for allegedly supporting moves to defame her
Indian nun accuses bishop charged with rape of slander campaign

Sister Anupama Kelamangalathuveli, spokesperson for the rape accuser nun, speaks during a public protest seeking the arrest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar on Sept. 20, 2018, in Kochi, southern India. (ucanews photo)

A Catholic nun, who accused a bishop of raping her more than a year ago, has approached India's federal rights commission accusing the prelate of being behind a defamation campaign against her.

The nun, based in Kerala state in southern India, wrote to the National Human Rights Commission on Oct. 19 seeking action against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar for allegedly tarnishing her image.

"I have been subjected to extreme humiliation and intimidation in various forms" since the crime was reported to police in June 2018, the letter said.

It said church authorities and church social media forums had spread rumors about her and the nuns supporting her.

False statements and fabricated stories aiming to tarnish their reputation and character were spread through social media channels, particularly internet channel Christian Times, the letter said. "We believe Bishop Franco and his group are behind this agenda," it added.

Her nun companions, who witnessed the torture and humiliation she suffered, have also been put through humiliations, the nun's letter said.

The bishop, based in Jalandhar Diocese in northern India, was accused of raping the nun multiple times from 2014 during visits to Kerala. The nun is a former superior general of Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation under the bishop's patronage.

The bishop was arrested on Sept. 21 last year after a fortnight-long public protest led by five nuns of the same congregation. The nuns are also companions of the alleged rape victim.

The nun said she had filed police complaints about eight cases of media humiliation and insults. But even after police began investigating a case against the Christian Times, it published several photographs and videos revealing her name and identity, the nun said.

Indian laws forbid revealing the name, photograph or other details of an alleged rape victim to help protect her from a possible social backlash.

"The identity of witnesses supporting me are also disclosed, leaving them open to intimidation and threats. The videos were published in such a way that my identity was easily recognizable to the public," the letter said.

Bishop Mulakkal and his supporters and their media "have been spreading false rumors and fake news" in violation of laws in order to obstruct justice, the nun said. 

'Channel not linked with bishop'

Sister Anupama Kelamangalathuveli, spokesperson for the nun, told ucanews that the letter was written as Christian Times had continued its slander campaign even after eight complaints against it to the police.

"We strongly believe that it is being done at the behest of the bishop, who himself appeared in one bulletin, further strengthening our doubts," Sister Anupama said.

However, Father Peter Kavumpuram, public relations officer of Jalandhar Diocese, dismissed the accusations.

"As far as I know, Christian Times is a private online channel, and Bishop Franco and Jalandhar Diocese have no connection with it," he told ucanews.

Several media outlets "targeted the bishop and carried negative stories without checking their facts and figures a year ago. Nobody ever raised any objection then," he noted.

The priest said he had seen some news broadcasts by Christian Times. "I found them accurate and with proper facts and figures. I believe they have sufficient documents to support their claims," he added.

Police charged Bishop Mulakkal in April with raping a nun multiple times. A 2,000-page charge sheet listed charges of wrongful confinement, rape of a woman incapable of giving consent, causing grievous bodily harm during rape, unnatural offense and criminal intimidation.

If found guilty, the bishop faces imprisonment of not less than 10 years or up to life in jail.

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