The controversy and violence surrounding the conviction of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda religious movement has raised questions about the nature of Indic faith leaders and the gullibility of their flock. Gurmeet Singh’s actions are by no means acceptable in any civilized society and are wholly condemnable.
But, in this uproar, we must take a dispassionate look at the so called Godmen across religious backgrounds, the evil they indulge in and the kind of leeway given to them by civil society.
Certain sections of the mainstream media would have the general public believe that such criminality is unique only to Hindu/Sikh/Jain religious leaders. In fact, the term ‘Godmen’ is almost exclusively used for Hindu religious leaders and Gurus in India, though such a term has no resonance to anything in Hindu tradition. Crimes by Hindu Godmen are played up in media and given extra-ordinary focus.
However, one finds that Godmen of various Christian denominations are frequently arrested on charges of sexual misconduct and often convicted. But, they mostly do not make it into mainstream media. At best, a routine report is filed by the reporter or stringer on the local beat. After that, the report is given a quiet burial. This never makes to Breaking News even in most regional TV channels and, as such, hardly occupies any mind space in public consciousness.
Despite this censorship, scores of crimes committed by Christian Godmen have made it into some corner of mainstream media publications.
In this report, we have compiled these incidents, which have appeared in the mainstream media itself in the recent years, which, though is only a tip of the iceberg, can still bring to focus the enormity of crimes, which have been either suppressed, ignored or downplayed in the media.
Fifty odd instances of sexual misconduct have been attributed to Indian or Indian-origin clergy in just the last 10 years. Many of the allegations relate to abuse of minors.
Some of our findings are:
- 25 odd instances (more than 50%) were reported in the last 18 months as of writing this report.
- 7 of these instances ended in conviction, though initial offence had been committed many years before.
- 30 of these instances were reported about Godmen in Tamil Nadu and Kerala alone.
- The overwhelming majority of Christian clergy arrested for sex abuse of minors hailed from Tamil Nadu or Kerala, even though the crimes were committed elsewhere.
- Here are a few examples where the Church, Government authorities and press have acted to shield the sex offender.
- The former Governor of Goa, SC Jamir is known to have intervened in getting a case against Fr Newton Rodrigues dismissed. Fr Rodrigues is accused of molesting a 13-yr-old.
- The Ooty Diocese revoked suspension against Rev Jayapaul, convicted of sexual assault on two 14-year-old girls in the United States.
- Sam Aaron, pastor in Shekinah Assembly of God, Namakkal, was out on bail even after facing charges of sexual assault within a short while.
- In the case of a senior Church functionary, Bishop Karkare, no follow-up reports have been made in a case where he was accused of rape.
- At a children’s home in Amboli, unnamed staff that were accused of physical and mental intimidation of juvenile inmates were shifted to another shelter. Authorities from the Maharashtra State Women and Children’s Welfare department claim that this action is sufficient
- One well-publicized case was that of Father Arockiaraj, accused of sexually abusing and murdering a 17-year-old. Here, the Catholic Church had not reported the matter to the police, even when aware of the matter.
These, and various other cases, beg a few important questions:
- Why are these not a cause célèbre among Indian media people yet?
- Why are the various Church denominations, Catholic, Assemblies of God not included in litigation? Why should the organizations not be penalized for acts of omission and commission on the part of their functionaries?
- Why should not Church properties be also attached by the Indian State, as was done in the case of Dera Sacha Sauda?
- Since most organizations to which the alleged/convicted perpetrators belonged are FCRA-NGOs, should not the FCRA Wing of Home Ministry take cognizance of these crimes and alert the foreign donors of these misdeeds?
This table below summarizes each case, with links to media stories.
|Name||Organization||Location||State||Date/Year||Case Status||Media stories|
|Pastor Raja David||Mother Theresa Orphanage||Pattukottai||TN||July 2016||Arrested||1,2,3|
|Pastor Millan Singh||Ukkirankottai||TN||October 2016||Arrested||1, 2, 3, 4|
|Fr Stephen Joseph||Little Angel Children’s Home, Vision of Life Trust||Mookkuperi, Thoothukudi||TN||Dec 2016||Convicted||1,2,3|
|Raju Kokken||Saint Paul’s Church||Thaikkattussery, Thrissur||KL||May 2014||Arrested||1|
|Sajan Mathai||Israel Pentecost Church, Punchavayal||Ranni, Pathanamthitta||KL||May 2014||Arrested||1, 2,3|
|Edwin Figarez||Kottappauram Catholic diocese||Ernakulam||KL||Dec 2016||Convicted||1,2,3|
|Father Arockiaraj||St Stanislaus Church, Walayar||Palakkad||KL||Aug 2016||Arrested||1,2,3|
|John Philipose||Balagram Bala Mandiram run by Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church||Valayanchirangara||KL||Feb 2016||Arrested||1,2,3|
|Unknown||Banjara Gypsy Home||Puducherry||PY||Jan 2017||No FIR||1,2|
|Fr. Jose Pallimattom||Franciscan Province of St. Thomas the Apostle||Was deported from Florida for crimes there. During trial, US MSM reported that he abused in India as well. No FIR in India, to our knowledge.||1,2,3,4,5,6|
|Premsingh Masih, Anjana Masih||SC/ST Hostel||Bagli, Indore||MP||1,2|
|Fr. Robin alias Mathew Vadakkancheril||Vicar, St Sebastian’s Church & Manager, IJM Higher Secondary School||Kottiyoor||KL||Feb 2017||Arrested||1,2,3,4|
|Unknown||Tuition Centre, Run by Religious Preacher||Pudukkadai, Kanyakumari||TN||1,2|
|Naomi & Ruben||Ruby Home||Uppal, Hyderabad||TS||Mar 2017||Case booked||1,2,3|
|Sijo George||Coordinator, Kerala Catholic Youth Movement, Mananthavady Diocese||Wayanad||KL||Mar 2017||Arrested||1,2,3,4,5,6|
|Fr. Thomas Parackal||The Society Of St. Eugene Demazenod, Punalur Diocese, Vicar of Moozikode St Mary’s Church and Pullamala Holy Cross Church||Punalur||KL||Mar 2017||Arrested||1,2,3,4,5,6|
|Pastor Rajesh||Nedumangadu Church||Nedumangadu||KL||May 2017||Arrested||1|
|Bro. Sunith Kumar||Save a Child Orphanage||Malkajgiri, Hyderabad||TS||Arrested||1,2,3|
|Fr. Saji Joseph||St. Vincent’s BalaNagar orphanage, Eparchy of Mananthavady||Meenangadi||KL||July 2017||Arrested||1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8|
|Fr Lawrence Johnson||Christ the King Church, Govandi||Mumbai||MH||Dec 2015||Arrested||1,2,3,4|
|Prabhakar||Prema Nilayam Orphanage||Siddipet||TS||Aug 2017||Arrested||1,2,3|
|Rev. Simon Palathingal||United States||Sep 2004||Convicted||1|
|Father Newton Rodrigues||Ribandar||GA||Oct 2010||Closed||1,2,3|
|Pastor Sanil James||Salvation Army Church, Peechi||Peechi||KL||May 2017||Convicted||1|
|Pastor K. Shantharaju||Bethel Student Centre||Bangalore||KA||June 2011||Arrested||1,2|
|Fr. Jonathan Robinson||Grail Trust||Valliyoor||TN||2011||Trial||1,2|
|Fr. Arockiaraj||RC Diocese, Coimbatore||Palakkad||TN-KL||Aug 2016||Arrested||1|
|Warden Jeyaraj||Christian Evangelical Lutheran Ministries||St. Marks Children’s Home, Guntur||AP||2014||Arrested||1,2,3|
|Pastor Packianathan & Suresh Kumar||Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church||Pollachi||TN||June 2014||Arrested||1,2,3,4,5,6|
|Pastor Dasi Ajay Babu||Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church||Guntur||AP||2011||Arrested||1,2,3,4|
|Jeyapaul Joseph Palanivel||Ooty Diocese||United States||2015||Convicted||1,2,3|
|Pastor Sam Aaron||Shekinah Assembly||Namakkal||TN||Mar 2016||Arrested||1,2,3,4|
|Pastor Surendra Mohan||Belukurichi Church||Rasipuram||TN||Dec 2016||Arrested||1,2,3|
|Fr. David Johnson||Roorkee||UK||Mar 2014||Arrested||1|
|Pastor David Inbaraj||Chennai||TN||Nov 2014||Convicted||1|
|Fr. David Gnaniah||Church of South India||Sawyerpuram, Tuticorin||TN||Nov 2015||Case filed||1|
|Sr. Jesse||Apostolic Christian Mission||Erukkanchery, Chennai||TN||Nov 2015||Case filed||1|
|Pastor Aruldas||Nilgiris||TN||Aug 2015||Arrested||1|
|Bishop Karkare||Hyderabad Episcopal Area of the Methodist Church in India||Latur||TS||Jun 2015||Case filed||1|
|Fr. F. Arockiam||Madras Archdiocese||Tiruvotriyur School Correspondent, Chennai||TN||Aug 2017||Case filed||1,2|
|Various||St. Catherine’s Home||Amboli, Mumbai||MH||2016-2017||No FIR||1|
|Pastor Mallishetti James||Brahmaputra Orphanage||Gachibowli, Hyderabad||TS||Aug 2016||Arrested||1,2,3|
|Pastor Jacob John||Grace Fellowship||Jaipur||RJ||2013-2014||Arrested||1,2|
|Fr. Edwin Figarez||Kottapuram RC Diocese||Puthenvellikara||KL||Apr 2015||Sentenced||1,2,3|
|Pastor K Shymon P Paul||Gospel in Action Fellowship||Gudalur||TN/KL||Apr 2015||Arrested||1|
|Pastor Chode Suresh||Independent Ministry||Eluru||AP||Apr 2016||Arrested||1,2|
|Pastor Samuel Pagi and Satish Pagi||Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission||Pune||MH||May 2013||Arrested||1,2|
|Fr. Basil Kuriakose||Kings David Intl. school||Kochi||KL||Jan 2017||Arrested||1,2|
|Vallamai Tharayo Childrens Home||Chennai||TN||Sep 2015||Arrested||1,2,3|
|Rev. Sadhu Immanuel||Sahityam Charitable Trust||Tiruvalloor||TN||May 2012||Arrested||1|
We thank @by2kaafi and @zeneraalstuff for collecting and compiling data used in this report.