Hindu Post [New Delhi, IN]
July 29, 2023
A village in Tamil Nadu has outcast a Christian man and his family for helping a sexual abuse victim file complaint. The victim, a minor boy, was sexually abused by the local church priest. The man helped him file a complaint through Childline and since then he has reportedly been receiving threats and lost business.
Arul Francis, a native of Sanarpatti in the Dindigul district, filed a petition with the district collector seeking action against those who outcast his family. Francis had helped a 7th-grade boy in his neighbourhood file a complaint against Adaikala Raj, the parish priest of Arogya Annai church. As per details mentioned in his petition, the boy serves as an altar boy in the local church and the priest sexually assaulted him while in an intoxicated state.
The priest threatened him not to reveal it to anyone saying that even if he goes to prison the boy will face character assassination. The terrified boy told Francis about it, who in turn informed the influential people of the village. As no action was taken against the priest Francis helped the boy in contacting ChildLine and filing a complaint in January 2023.
Childline members investigated the issue, received a written complaint from the boy and formally lodged a police complaint. Francis says that another complaint was filed with the diocese as well and they conducted an investigation. Francis alleged that cops called him to the police station and the boy for investigation and deleted data and the boy’s confession video from his phone. After he left, the boy and his parents were reportedly threatened by priest Adaikala Raj’s friends and influential people of the village and made to withdraw the complaint.
Since then Francis and his family have been cast out from the village. He laments that they stop labourers from working in his agricultural field, and don’t allow his family to participate in important events of friends and family. Francis runs a rental sound service shop. He accuses the priest’s friends of obstructing his business as well, ensuring that no one approaches him. He has petitioned the district collector to ensure justice for the victim and himself.
A Dinamalar report says that police acknowledged receiving a complaint from Childline and said that neither the victim nor his family lodged any complaint. Childline member Jacob said that the boy did confess that he was sexually abused and that they filed a complaint with the police. He further said that the victim had given in a written statement that he forgives the priest and that they didn’t follow up on the case. District Revenue Officer(DRO) Sheik Muhaideen told Dinamalar that action will be taken only after a complaint is received and an investigation officer is appointed and finds the truth.
Selvam, the village chief claimed that Francis’ charges of his family being outcast from the village isn’t true. Joseph, another influential villager claimed that there was no sexual harassment complaint and that Francis was trying to get back at the priest for personal issues. He said, “Francis had sought the priest to rent his sound service equipment for the events held in the church. Learning that the priest has a considerable amount of money he demanded lakhs from him and diverted the issue like this”.
Father Adaikala Raj told Malai Murasu that the claims of Francis and his family being outcast are not true and that the latter extorted him by claiming to repair electrical appliances in the church. He has alleged that Francis charged exorbitant amounts for his equipment when he hired him for church events and wanted to take revenge as the priest questioned him. He echoed Childline member Jacob’s comment that the boy had given a statement in written form that the priest did not sexually harass him to the police and the diocese.
The issue of naked women being paraded after a brutal rape in Manipur is a hot topic now. Many, including Hindus, create, post and share content denigrating Hindu dharma and beliefs in the name of criticising the perpetrators of the crime. But crimes such as the above and the Udupi snooping incident are not only buried but distorted and diverted even if they come out.
Childline India Foundation (CIF) is the nodal agency of the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development for setting up, managing and monitoring the CHILDLINE 1098 service all over the country. It works with NGOs at the district level to coordinate their work. Most of the NGOs that Childline has tied up with are Christian NGOs. Child Welfare Committees, the district-level units of NCPCR are also dominated by Christians and thus are biased in their reactions to abuse by Christian clergy.
Such people in positions of authority actively work to encourage and hide abuse on vulnerable children and women. For example, Isabel Richardson, a Child Welfare Committee(CWC) member in TN was arrested for helping her brother Bennet Richardson who raped trafficking victims residing in a Christian ‘home’. Father Thomas Joseph Therakam and Sister Betty Jose, members of CWC in Kerala were dismissed from their posts after it came to light that they helped the famous Catholic priest Robin Vadakkancheril, who raped and impregnated a minor girl. He not only tried to force the victim’s father to take the blame but also tried to escape punishment by seeking to marry her.
In another similar incident, a CWC member Pushpa Rani Tirkey, who ran an ‘orphanage’ helped her husband and son physically and sexually abuse girl inmates. Such cases show how compromised child safety is and the monopoly of some in handling the field.