The decision by the Kottayam Additional Sessions Court on January 14 acquitting former bishop Franco Mulakkal of repeatedly raping a nun shocked journalist Leena Gita Reghunath and public policy professional Athira Sujatha, as it did so many others across India. Five days later, they launched an online letter campaign to express solidarity with the complainant and the nuns who have supported her through the trial.
“I thought if we are so heartbroken and anguished, what must be the state of the nun?” explained Reghunath.
Actors Geetu Mohandas, Rima Kallingal and Parvathy Thiruvothu, filmmaker Leena Manimekalai and writers Anna MM Vetticad and Nisha Susan are among those who joined the campaign and posted handwritten letters on social media.
The nun had filed the complaint in June 2018, alleging that she had been sexually abused by Mulakkal several times between 2014 and 2016 when he was the bishop of the Roman Catholic Church’s Jalandhar diocese.
Mulakkal had accused the nun of seeking revenge for ordering an inquiry into a complaint against her. He was removed from his post after the allegations.
Reghunath and Sujatha were inspired to start the #WithTheNuns campaign after reading a Facebook post by academician J Devika calling for “protests that can awaken the imagination of the people”.
They decided to ask five people to write letters to the nuns conveying solidarity. Every contributor would help promote the campaign by getting more people to send their own letters.
The letters, mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and uploaded to various social media platforms on Wednesday, laud the courage of the nuns and express gratitude for their willingness to fight for justice.
A few of the letters were also printed out and sent to the nuns.
Film actress Geetu Mohandas thanked the nuns for “showing grit and determination to fight, and never give up”.
Actress Rima Kallingal called the nuns’ fight against injustice “a new chapter in Kerala’s and world’s history”.
Actress Parvathy Thiruvothu wrote, “In a world that has gotten so used to treating us as dispensable nothings, it is a revolution just to stay right here and breathe.”
“Your strength is our lantern,” wrote filmmaker Leena Manimekalai.
Journalist Ammu Joseph said, “In solidarity with you as you continue to fight the good fight.”
“I stand with you and Sister X, whose struggle shall not be in vain,” journalist Laxmin Murthy wrote.
Writer Anna MM Vetticad recalled her own experience with sexual violence. “Your fight gives me strength,” she said.
Declared journalist Nisha Susan, “I grieve with you now and offer all our love, all the strength in the world.”