Four nuns from the Missionaries of Jesus congregation who had protested against rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal wrote to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan seeking his intervention after they received transfer orders from their superior, PTI reported. The nuns claimed the orders were part of an attempt to “sabotage the case”.

Four of the five nuns who participated in the protests against the former Jalandhar bishop last year were asked to leave their convent in Kuravilangad, Kerala. The nuns were identified as Anupama Kelamangalathuveliyil, Alphy Pallasseril, Josephine Villoonnickal, and Ancitta Urumbil. Sister Nina Rose, who had also participated in the protest, has not received any transfer orders yet, PTI reported.

The nuns claimed the congregation was holding back on their daily expenses allowance to restrain their movement, Mathrubhumi reported. They requested the chief minister to ensure that they remained in the same convent until the end of the case.

The nun who had accused Mulakkal of raping her also wrote a letter to the chief minister, PTI reported. “Their [congregation] aim is to single me out and to harass and torture me,” she wrote in the letter, which was also addressed to Director General of Police Loknath Behra and the Kerala State Women’s Commission. “My life will be in danger if such a situation arises.”

She further claimed: “They want to split us and put us in different locations in India. Moreover, all the nuns are prominent witnesses in this case and they will not be able to give evidence before the court at the trial stage in such a situation.”

While Pallaseeril has reportedly been transferred to a convent in Bihar, Urumbil, Villoonnickal have been sent to Jalandhar. Kelamangalathuveliyil has been transferred to a Punjab convent, PTI reported.

The nuns had earlier accused Superior General Regina Kadamthottu, who issued the transfer order, of not doing enough to help them despite knowing everything about the case. “Sister Regina closed her eyes to everything,” said the unidentified nun. “We came here only to support our victimised colleague. All the protection is for Franco.”

Jalandhar diocese spokesperson Father Peter Kuvampuram said neither Mulakkal nor the diocese was involved in the decision to transfer the nuns. “The Missionaries of Jesus took a decision on that,” he said. “They come under the Jalandhar diocese but their decisions are independent.”

The case

The police had filed charges against Mulakkal in June after a nun accused him of raping her 13 times between 2014 and 2016 at a convent in Kottayam. Mulakkal was arrested on September 21 after three days of questioning. On October 15, the Kerala High Court granted him conditional bail, and he was released the following day. Mulakkal, who returned to Jalandhar on October 17, has denied all charges.

The congregation has allegedly asked the nuns to join their previously-assigned convents, in accordance with transfer orders issued between March and May, 2018, PTI reported.

The Missionaries of Jesus had said its internal investigation found Mulakkal to be innocent. The organisation had also attempted to malign the complainant repeatedly, and had once claimed that she was in a relationship with a taxi driver.

In November 2018, reports had claimed that the congregation had told the Kerala Police that they do not have the “financial capacity” to protect the nun who accused former Bishop Franco Mulakkal of rape.