This is the website of Aaj Tak, India’s most watched Hindi news channel, from last night.
They didn’t think it was worth reporting on the mysterious death of Father Kuriakose, a witness in the nun rape case against Bishop Franco.
This is not just the story of Aaj Tak. The news of Father Kuriakose death was also missing from the website of India TV and even Zee News, both perceived to be sympathetic to Hindu right.
After the first few hours, the mentions of Father Kuriakose even stopped trending on Twitter. Take that!
What we are witnessing is the terrifying hold of the Catholic Church on all modes of expression in this country.
Now, they say that don’t jump to conclusions before an investigation is conducted and probably until the courts reach a verdict. That is good sound advice.
But, well. Isn’t jumping to conclusions the thing that Indian media does for a living? Therefore, let us weigh the two possibilities against each other on the scales of likelihood.
Is it likely that the Indian media suddenly suffered a stroke of uncommon and selective good sense? Or is it more likely they are just scared of the power of the Church?
You tell me.
Let us quickly rerun the sequence of events. For over 2 months, the nuns of Kerala waged a lonely battle with their rape accusations against the influential Bishop Franco Mulakkal. No arrest, however.
Finally, the story began to get some traction in the media. Even so, the Communist Kerala government stuck to its guns and refused to act. In the meantime, powerful Kerala politicians and numerous church groups indulged in the most blatant form of victim shaming, including referring to the victim nun as a prostitute.
Ultimately, more than 80 days since the nuns of Kerala began their struggle, Bishop Franco was finally arrested. That is how long it took for the Indian state to pierce Bishop Franco’s three-layered armour, i.e., his affiliation to the establishment of a “secular” religion, the fact that the alleged crime occurred in Communist-ruled Kerala and the fact that he was residing in Congress-ruled Punjab.
As for the Church, they didn’t even remove the accused Bishop. Rather, he was allowed to “temporarily resign.”
In light of some other recent events, coincidentally also in Kerala, some loud news channels have run hashtags on “FaithvsLaw”. See how long it took for the Indian state to gain an advantage in its arm wrestling with the Church.
Just 20 something days later, Bishop Franco was out on bail, going home to a boisterous welcome.
So, the law did not get an upper hand after all in its arm wrestling match. The Church was just playing with us.
Barely a week after his release on bail, Father Kuriakose, a key witness in the nun rape case is dead.
A church insider, who was a witness in a rape case against a powerful bishop, just happens to drop dead at the most convenient time for the Church.
If this does not make the authority of the Indian state seem like a joke, tell me what does?
Let alone ask questions, let alone hold Rahul and Yechury accountable for the conduct of their respective governments in Punjab and Kerala, our media is terrified even to discuss the matter.
India’s entire political and intellectual class, the media fraternity, as also cartoonists and artists are complicit in this deafening silence surrounding the death of Father Kuriakose.
Earlier this year, we remember well how a bunch of innocent Hindus who were demanding nothing more than a CBI inquiry were cast as rape supporters in the media. Those demanding the inquiry were victims who had been thrown out of their homes and chased out of their village by angry mobs inflicting punishment on an entire group for a shocking case of rape. In the media narrative that followed, the rhetoric, the placards and cartoons that were used cared little for religious sentiments of Hindus. And more often than not, were deliberately offensive against the entire community.
In the case of Bishop Franco, the same classes have been subdued, walking on eggshells, choosing to speak in cautious whispers, terrified of offending sentiments and/or jumping to conclusions. This despite the shocking history of the Catholic Church and sexual abuse all over the world.
Late awakening, loyalty or pure terror? You tell me.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.