The funeral service of Sister Valsa in progress at a church in Dudhani, Dumka, on Thursday. Picture by Rajesh Kumar
Dumka, Nov. 17: Admirers, colleagues and villagers in hundreds congregated to bid Sister Valsa a final farewell this morning at a Dudhani church here, less than two days after the portly sari-clad Catholic nun was hacked to death by unknown assailants at Pachuara village of Pakur.
Father Varkey Chema, Father Nirmal Raj and Father Emanuel Murmu led the funeral, which began at 9am.
The two-hour ceremony saw many tearful faces. Children from the Pachuara school Sister Valsa ran, as well as women who knew her since she settled in Jharkhand, wept openly.
Bereaved family members — elder brother M.J. Baby, nephews Nirmal Anto and Nitish Mathew who arrived from Edapally, a residential enclave in Kochi — were stony-faced.
I never envisaged such a destiny for her, said Baby. Yes, I was aware of the threat as she had mobilised villagers against the powerful mining lobby. The last time she was home, we had pleaded with her to stay back. But she was adamant about seeing if Panem Coal Mines Ltd was implementing its rehab package, he said.
After church rituals, the body was taken to a Vijaypur-based cemetery 1.5km away. The cortege vended its way slowly as people lined up on both sides of the road. The burial rituals lasted for over an hour.
At least 600 people, including 150 from Pachuara alone, attended the funeral. She got a lot of love in her final journey, said Father Solomon of Dumka.
Patna-based social worker and Padmashri awardee Sister Verghese said: When I met her last month, she said she had to ensure that Pakur residents got their due.
How can she be subjected to such inhuman treatment when she devoted her life to serve the downtrodden? asked Father Tom Kavalakatta, Sister Valsas long-time aide in the anti-mining movement and member of the MoU monitoring committee constituted by her to review the companys rehab.
Calling the murder as a great blow to tribals, Father Tom added: They relied on Sister Valsa to protect their land and interests. She played a decisive role in framing an MoU between Panem and project-hit people and forced the company to accept it.
Father Tom claimed the MoU was a landmark. According to it, Panem had to treat the soil after mining, start a hospital and CBSE-affiliated schools in the area.
Father Tom declined to pin direct blame on the Panem management. I cant say that so-and-so orchestrated the murder. But there was apprehension that Sister Valsa would have mobilised villagers against the companys proposed expansion. The mob was a mere puppet in the hands of powerful people, he said, urging the police to nab the real culprits.
Former deputy chief minister Stephen Marandi demanded a high-level inquiry.
Pakur was her adopted home since 1993, but a shocked Edapally, where Sister Valsa grew up, also mourned her brutal death. Six schools stayed closed today while local politicians turned up for her memorial service at St Georges Forane Church.