The recent suicide attempt of the schoolgirl on January 9 helps the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Tamil Nadu, south India, to spread hate speech and accuse the Christian schools of forced conversion.
The BJP and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP--World Hindu Council) group have posted a video on social media saying the girl-committed suicide because the nuns forced her to convert to Christianity. This created commotion in Tamil Nadu. The girl died on January 19, says Father Kudanthai Gnani, editor of Namvazhvu, a Tamil Catholic weekly.
Sacred Heart of Jesus Higher Secondary School is a century-old in the diocese of Kumbakonam diocese of Tamil Nadu. The school is situated in Michealpatti near Thirukattuppalli.
Saint Michael’s Hostel is run for the poor and the abandoned girls by the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (FIHM) who is also known as Pondicherry Blue.
A 12th-grade girl whose name is Lavanya (revealed by the newspapers) died by suicide in the hostel of Thanjavur district.
The girl stayed in the hostel from grade 8. When the girl was reported of stomach-ache and vomiting, the nuns took her to the nearby hospital.
The next day the nuns informed her father and he took her from the hostel in Michaelpatti. She did not inform her father that she consumed poison. When the health condition worsened, Muruganandam took his daughter to Thanjavur Medical College on January 15.
When the doctors examined the 17-year-old student, it was revealed that she consumed pesticide and reported dying declaring that it was the nuns who asked her to clean all the hostel rooms.
A case was registered at Thirukattuppalli police station and the school warden, Sister Sahaya Mary, a 62-year-old nun, was arrested.
A senior police officer in Thanjavur states the girl has not mentioned anything about the forced conversion in the First Information Report.
The BJP elements and the family of the girl protested in front of the Thanjavur Medical College and are using suicide as a political agenda, adds the priest.
The girl is from Vadugapalayam in the Ariyalur district. His parents are Muruganandam and Kanimozhi. The mother died eight years ago and Muruganandham married a woman named Saranya.
Sister Sahaya Mary is a kind-hearted woman, who took care of the girl as a mother. She used to take the girl for outings and provide whatever the girl needed. It is said that Sister Sagaya Mary even presented new clothes for Christmas and the key of the closet was under the care of the girl.
The girl’s friends say that the girl yearned for her mother’s love. The torture of the stepmother made the girl stay in a hostel at the time of lockdown. The girl had also suffered a kind of leprosy. She shared her concerns about where to stay after her grade 12 as the parents of the girl were indifferent.
There was no word mentioned as forced conversion neither in the dying declaration of the girl nor the complaint of her father. It is only the BJP elements and their president who mentions the forced conversion, says Savukku Sankar, a political critic from Tamil Nadu.
“We mourn and express our condolences to the girl’s family. Based on the declaration of the girl, whoever is responsible for the girl’s death, justice should be done,” says Bishop Antony Pappusamy, the president of Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council and the Archbishop of Madurai in his letter.
All know the service of the Christian minority institutions and they do not force anyone to convert to Christianity. The nuns are running these educational institutions with a commitment to the welfare of girl children.
In these schools, the girls are from another religion and the nuns never attempt to convert any girl.
“We do not agree with the accusations of forced conversion spread by the BJP elements, they stop to know the real reason for the girl and try harming the harmony of the people here. We urge the police and government of Tamil Nadu to take the issue in the right direction and we always support the government,” adds the Archbishop.
Hate campaigns in the name of conversion must be stopped and the right-wing extremist groups must be suppressed to protect Tamil Nadu. There must be laws for propagating hate speeches, says Tamil Nadu Minister Thol Thirumavalavan, a party leader of Viduthalai Pulikal Katchi.
He requests the chief minister of the State to take action against these forces.
In 2021, there were 500 attacks on Christians across India, and it is 75% more than the number of attacks in 2020, reports the United Christian Forum, a civil society group that keeps track of persecution against Christians in India.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.