Nun Defending Santals Slain


A PRESS RELEASE issued by Fr. Tom Kavalakatt S.J. Dumka Province

THE  MURDER OF Sr. VALSA JOHN SCJM. IN THE SANTAL MISSION, INDIA

Sr. Valsa was murdered on the night of 15th November 2011  at her residence in Pachwara where she was staying . A crowd of people, almost 40-50 in number, armed with traditional weapons came at around 10.30 P.M. and surrounded the house. A few youth who were there were caught and tied. Then they entered the house and found Sonaram Hembrom, the owner of the house, dragged him out and tied him and threatened to murder him if he did not hand over  Sr. Valsa to them. His answer was that she was not there. They thrashed him and got into the house and entered the room where she was sleeping, pulled her out and murdered her and went away.

Sr. Valsa has been staying in Pachwara since 1998 and helping the people to organize themselves against the coal mining company acquiring the land of the villagers. The people’s effort to get support from High court and supreme court did not succeed and the company had managed to divide the people’s movement. The people could not resist the strong pressure from the company, police and the administration for long and they had to come to an agreement (MOU) with the company at last. However, the MOU that the people signed with the Panem company was a land mark one in many ways:

1.     The company agreed to fill the pits, level them, put good sand, make it cultivable and give back the land to the people.

2.   The company will give a crop compensation for the land that is under mining (Rs. 6000/- per acre per year)

3.     The company will give a share of the profit to the people (Rs. 10000/- per acre per year) till they fill the pits and give back the land to the people.

4.     The company will level the remaining land of the people and make it fit for better Cultivation using lift irrigation facilities.

5.     The company will provide jobs for the PAP.

6.     The company will provide free education to the children under CBSE scheme.

7.     The company will build a hospital with all modern facilities and specialized Doctors.

8.     People who have to move out will be rehabilitated in the vicinity itself so that they can use their land.

9.     All the families will be provided with quarters having four rooms and a verandah.

10.   In addition to the above, all the other compensation and facilities that   Government normally provide will also be given to them.

Sr.Valsa had a decisive role in formulating this agreement and making the company to accept it.

The government of India’s new land acquisition and rehabilitation policy was guided by this MOU also.

During the last six years of prolonged struggle against the powers for the cause of the tribal people she had to undergo a lot of uncertainty and pain, face many problems and risk her life many times. Once the MOU was signed, Sr. Valsa was helping in the implementation of the MOU in letter and spirit. She was specially  making sure that all the children are getting education in some alternate way till the full fledged school is built, health facilities are provided through a dispensary at Pachwara and serious cases are referred to  major hospitals where better facilities are available and women are organized to benefit from the activities that are part of the MOU.

The MOU monitoring committee consisted of two representatives from each village, three from the movement, three from the traditional leadership and three from the company side. It is noteworthy that the committee was consisting of the PAP and the company; no administration and politician was part of it.

Sr. Valsa was born on 19th March 1963 at Vazhakala village of Idappally in Ernakulam District of Kerala. After her studies she was working as a teacher in her home town. Then she decided to live and work for the poor and exploited people of our country. The sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary had a convent in her village and she approached them and told them about her wish. They told her that the SCJM sisters work in the rural areas, mainly among the marginalized people and through this congregation, she would be able to fulfill her desire. So she joined the SCJM. After her religious training she was assigned to Palamu district. In 1993 she came to Sahibganj disrtrict and worked with the Jesuit Fathers at Kodma. She was transferred to Jiapani Mission in 1995 and from 1998 onwards she began to stay in Pachwara to guide the people in their struggle against mining company.

This gruesome murder is a great loss for the cause of the tribal people in Jharkhand who are fighting to protect their land from national and international companies.

Fr. Tom Kavalakatt S.J.
Dumka Province
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