After 28 years, a CBI Court in Kerala has finally given its verdict in the Abhaya murder case, convicting Father Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sephy for the crime. The people have welcomed this as the safeguarding of justice, despite it being almost three decades late. However, there is a rather sinister political interference in this case, as well as that of Bishop Franco Mulakkal, which needs a closer look in this high-strung political climate.
While the Abhaya case had seen its share of twists and turns, many had believed that the case was fated for an early grave seeing as how the Church had allegedly spent a lot of money towards protecting the accused. The situation in Kerala at the time was complicated considering how the Church had enough power to determine voters’ decision in many parts of the state. Many witnesses in the case had confessed to political and church pressure, offers of money as a way to recant their statement.
However, there was another political pressure at play here and this was from the Centre. Reportedly, BJP big wigs made sure that the pressure remained on the Church and the accused such that they didn’t have a chance of escape. This was more evident in Bishop Franco’s case, where a woman had accused him of raping her several times over the years, and other woman joined her with similar accusations.
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Home Minister Amit Shah has been giving a warm welcome to certain church leaders, the Central government is strict in regards to the criminal and civil cases where the church is a party
In both situations, a reported interference from the Centre had resulted in the fast-tracking of the case that was unprecedented and unseen in regards to cases against the church. The Abhaya case began hearing from last year and reached a verdict in one year. This is despite efforts from many organisations and officials to try and erase evidence, botch up the investigation, recanting witness statements, and so on. Even the CBI had tried to clear the case, but the Courts kept mounting their move and pushing the agency into solving it.
Earlier, the congress government helped the church and protected their interest but the BJP is not ready for any compromise. Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Home Minister Amit Shah has been giving a warm welcome to certain church leaders, the Central government is strict in regards to the criminal and civil cases where the church is a party.
Moreover, the Modi government had already created a media ruckus with the appointment of Pratap Chandra Sarangi into the cabinet. To the uninitiated, Pratap was the chief of Bajrang Dal in 1999, when they reportedly burned down a car along with Australian Christian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons. The case had created widespread notoriety not only in Odisha but everywhere else. Despite the social media campaign to make him seem nice and down-to-earth, the move was opposed by a lot of social activists, and Christian groups as well. However, despite Pratap’s participation in one of India’s most brutal politically inspired violence, the Narendra Modi government decided that he should be a part of it.
Sources claim that the BJP has mounted an attack against the church, and it wouldn’t be surprising. The government had already brought in more regulations in regards to receiving foreign contributions with their Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. Moreover, the Ministry of Home Affairs has already cut FCRA licenses of many churches and related organisations, and this has severely affected their revenue capacity. Now, with the mounting of legal actions against churches and its members, the BJP is ensuring a systematic discrediting that will help the Bharatiya Janata Party in the long run.
Moreover, with the turning of ‘love-jihad’ laws towards Christian missionaries, the BJP states have made it clear that they are not going to be engaging in a political agreement.