By Jose Kavi
New Delhi: Jalandhar diocese on August 10 urged its faithful not to flock to its headquarters as a police team from Kerala prepares to interrogate Bishop Franco Mulakkal in a rape case.
The diocesan Public Relations Office (PRO) made the request after media, especially television channels in Kerala, reported that Catholics and other supporters of the bishop flocked in large numbers to the prelate’s residence apparently to protect him. The diocese covers the northern Indian state of Punjab.
The six-member police team arrived in Jalandhar in the morning after traveling some 3,600 km north to investigate the alleged rape of a nun by the bishop. They had a stopover at New Delhi where they unsuccessfully tried to question the apostolic nuncio. They also went to Ujjain to question the bishop there as part of their investigation.
“The Diocese of Jalandhar earnestly appeal to you to maintain peace and order, therefore requesting all not to gather or send anyone to the vicinity of Bishop’s House as long as the interrogation is over,” says the PRO’s plea addressed to priests, sisters, catechists and the people of God in Punjab.
It also urged them to pray “so that the truth may prevail.”
Earlier, a WhatsApp message in Punjabi has also been doing rounds, asking community leaders to gather at the Bishop House at 9 am on August 10 ahead of the Kerala police team’s visit in the event of any adverse report or action.
The police team, led by Deputy Superintendent of Police K Subhash, includes a woman constable and a cyber-expert.
The team, which is expected stay in Jalandhar for at least three days, will first attempt to collect evidences before interrogating the bishop at his residence in the city. The team also plans to visit some nuns and priests in Amritsar and Gurudaspur during their tour.
The Chandigarh-based Tribune newspaper reports that some nuns in Jalandhar have been circulated already formatted statements in favor of the bishop. The nuns are expected to hand them over to the Kerala police during their questioning.
Meanwhile mangalam.com, a Malayalam news portal, reports the police team has delayed the bishop’s interrogation as it had not received permission from the Kerala Home Ministry. The team left from Kerala three days ago with a list of questions prepared after talking to several people in the southern Indian state connected to the case. The police team had also reportedly consulted a top police officer in Kerala.
The portal also quoted indication from the Punjab police’s intelligence department that some groups were trying to create law and order problem in case of the bishop’s arrest.
The case began on June 30 when the Kerala police registered a sexual case against Bishop Mulakkal on a complaint from a Catholic nun.
The nun, whose name cannot be revealed for legal reasons, alleged that the bishop first raped her in May 2014 at their convent in Kuravilangad near Kerala’s Kottayam town and later subjected her to rape and unnatural sex on 13 different occasions for next two years.
Bishop Mulakkal, 55, has denied the charge and dismissed it as an act of vendetta by the nun for taking action against her. The nun was once the superior general of the Missionaries of Jesus, a 25-year-old diocesan congregation for women that works mainly in Punjab. The bishop says his conscience was clear that he was willing to undergo any scrutiny to help truth to emerge.