Babas in white robes: ‘God’ men and their misdeeds

This article takes 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.

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:

  1. Why are these not a cause célèbre among Indian media people yet?
  2. 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?
  3. Why should not Church properties be also attached by the Indian State, as was done in the case of Dera Sacha Sauda?
  4. 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
Hunny Parali, Palakkad KL 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
Pastor Prabhu
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.