Scandals bind communists and Church

New Delhi: The "godless" communists and the Catholic Church found themselves in the same boat this past week, accused of dragging their respective feet in dealing with sexual harassment complaints within their closed confines.

Nuns joined a pro-reformation protest of Catholics in Kerala alleging laxity on the investigation into a rape complaint lodged with state police by a nun of the Jalandhar-based Missionaries of Jesus against the congregation's patron, Bishop Franco Mulakkal. The CPM-led Kerala government and the party also came under fire for not arresting him even 76 days after the complaint was filed.

The slow pace of the investigation, the questioning of the complainant at least 10 times while the bishop has been quizzed only once and the fact that he continues to hold charge have led to allegations of evidence-tampering and influencing of witnesses in the case.

The apprehension of influencing witnesses gained currency on Monday with the Missionaries of Jesus coming out with a statement condemning the nuns who joined the protest and absolving the bishop by maintaining that the allegations against him were baseless.

While the Catholic Church is being questioned for taking no action against the bishop, the Kerala government headed by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan is at the receiving end for the slow pace of investigation.

This, in turn, has kept the spotlight on his party's handling of a sexual harassment complaint against its own MLA, P.K. Sasi, by a district secretariat member of the Democratic Youth Federation of India, the CPM's youth wing.

CPM veteran V.S. Achuthanandan has written to the central leadership questioning the decision to launch a probe through the party apparatus into the complaint that levels a charge of criminal offence.

He has also called for the immediate arrest of Bishop Franco. VS is not alone within the party in being upset about the way the CPM has gone about both the cases. Only, he has the gumption to speak up within the party.

"The way the two cases are being handled has put a negative mark against the Kerala government and Left politics," Annie Raja, the general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women, told The Telegraph.

"When the Left has been at the forefront of the fight for gender justice in the country, should we not maintain the same standard here too? Kerala is considered a model state and it is in many regards, but can we even claim to be a model state with regard to treatment of women after this? Raja wondered.

According to her, natural justice is being denied in both cases as the two accused remain in their respective offices of influence. "There has been an unacceptable delay," she said, questioning the Catholic Church for its inaction.

CBCI secretary-general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas said the Church was awaiting the final report of the police. "The sister never wrote to us. She went to the police, and we are now waiting for their report. Once it is finalised, the Church authorities will take action on that basis.''

Bishop Mascarenhas was#critical of Kerala MLA P.C. George who had indulged in victim-shaming by calling the nun a prostitute. "Disgusting comment. Totally unacceptable,'' Bishop Mascarenhas tweeted on Sunday in reaction to the MLA's widely criticised comments.

The National Commission for Women has asked George to explain his statements and appear before it on September 20.


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