Exactly two years ago, on January 19, 2022, a Leterm Mortem video of 17-year-old Lavanya surfaced in social media and became a sensational video where she, on record, stated, “My name is Lavanya, and my father’s name is Muruganantham. One time, before me, they asked my parents about converting their daughter to Christianity and then providing support for her education. They will always scold and desist from staying in other places. In between, Muthuvel intervened to ask who had told it like that. Lavanya resumes saying it is the Nun Sister there; her name is Raquel Mary. In between, Muthuvel intervenes to ask when they ask. Lavanya replied about two years ago. Lastly, Muthuvel says that all tortures are meted out to you since you did not convert. Lavanya replies, that it might be.”
When this video confession reached everyone, Lavanya left the world on this same day, which today marks her second death anniversary. Our martyr Lavanya stood strongly with the institutional evangelical coercion where in Her own words, she explicates – “I…..studying since 8th Class studying in the school by lodging in the hostel. There, Nun Sister Sagaya Mary is the warden of the hostel. Only to me, she will force me to do account calculation of the hostel along with proper maintenance of Audit record. And she used to scold me very frequently. She never sent me home for holidays and always forced me to stay in the hostel. Whenever I asked to go home, she would convince me by saying that I could study properly if I stayed in the hostel. However, the studies have hugely piled up, and I start refusing to do such accounts and audit works; whenever I deny doing accounts and audit works. Also, I was never given proper food. That Sister always forced me to do accounts and audits, and such acts have forced me to commit suicide.”
ABVP with Justice for Lavanya
With this video surfacing everywhere, ABVP as the first organisation, immediately sent a delegation led by then National Secretary – Shri Muthuramalingam, who paid a visit to the Lavanya’s family on January 20, 2022 and protested with her last remain against the District Administration for the delay in arresting the two nuns who are the prime party behind the Lavanya suicide, Sagaya Mary and Raquel Mary. Along with the protest, ABVP initiated the #JusticeForLavanya trend on social media on the same day. Towards the evening, when NCPCR Chairman – Priyank Kanoongo replied to ABVP North Tamil Nadu tweet – “Notice Issued”. Following which Ariyalur District Superintendent of Police addressed a press release to negate the conversion angle, while the accused two nuns are not still arrested as of 20th January 2022.
When the Lavanya’s parents approached the Madras High Court bench at Madurai criticising the Ariyalur Police act of saving the accused by refusing the video statement of Lavanya and refuting the evangelical angel on 21st January 2022. On Madras High Court’s persuasion, Ariyalur Police has arrested only Sagaya Mary on 22nd January 2022 stating that during the magistrate statement record of Lavanya’s dying declaration has no mentions of Raquel Mary.
With Ariyalur Police’s preconceived notion of negating Lavanya’s a Leterm Mortem video, the then ABVP’s National General Secretary gave a national call on January 23, 2022 for a nationwide protest and submission of a memorandum to every District Collector from Kashmir to Kanyakumari addressed to Tamil Nadu’s Governor for transferring of this case to CBI. When the nationwide protest was ongoing led by ABVP, a state cabinet minister of Tamil Nadu holding portfolio of School Education – Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi on January 24, 2022 rejected evangelical coercion angle and defended the acts of Sagaya Mary as the Ordained Nun being the Guardian of Lavanya. Meanwhile, the NCPCR chief has recorded the fact that Tamil Nadu Government is cooperating on the Lavanya’s suicide case on 28th January 2022. So on the next day, that is on January 29, 2022, ABVP constituted a Fact Finding Committed by the then National General Secretary – Nidhi Tripathi. When this committee was announced by ABVP, based on Madras High Court order, the Muthuvel who has recorded Lavanya’s Leterm Mortem mobile to surrender that mobile phone before Ariyalur District Police. By obliging to surrender that video, a video recorded in that mobile in the custody of Ariyalur Police surfaced in a Youtube channel to which Tamil Nadu Police IG (Central Zone) had appeared on January 24, 2022. Then the Tamil Nadu Police started to spin a new story of Stepmother torture to Lavanya angel.
In these development, the fact-finding committee led by Nidhi Tripathi visited several areas of Thanjavur and Ariyalur then presented their finding on February 4, 2022 in which they have mentioned that Lavanya’s father is one of the district functionary of DMK and that party is censuring his daughter’s suicide and added “the incident calls for action, but the Stalin-led government has been dormant. Rather two ministers of the ruling Tamil Nadu government openly refused and denied the conversion charges even before any preliminary investigations. Despite the video evidence of the victim, the Tamil Nadu Police also denied any charges of forceful conversion when the probe was in the initial stage. Moreover, the police did not even bother to include the religious conversion angle that the student has openly accused of the two nuns from the school the Christian Missionary runs. Subsequent non-cooperation of the TN government for the request of NCPCR raises doubts about the fair conduct of the investigation. Also, there is a possibility that the mobile may be tampered with and that the integrity of the investigation may be in question when the same mobile, which Ms. Lavanya used to record, has been under the TN Police’s custody.”
Accused Sagaya Mary was granted bail by a lower court in Tamil Nadu and then welcomed by DMK MLA Inigo Irudhyaraj on February 13, 2022. Immediately on the next day, on February 14, 2022, 37 ABVP Student Activist by then National General Secretary – Nidhi Tripathi protested outside the residence of the DMK President and TN Chief Minister – MK Stalin to attract his august attention. But the DMK President abused his power as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu to unlawfully arrest the ABVP Student Activist and false allegations were levelled for an eight-day judicial custody. Also, male police officers were used to arrest ABVP Girl’s Student Activist.
Immediately, a nation-wide protest erupted since February 15, 2022 across every district and villages by ABVP Activist calling for #FightforLavanya. On the same day, CBI filed FIR on Lavanya case. Delhi Tamil Nadu House was stormed by ABVP Delhi Unit and condemned the M.K. Stalin government for promoting evangelism in the State. On February 17, 2022, ABVP Former National President – Dr. Subbiah Shanmugam was dismissed by the Tamil Nadu Government for his association with ABVP.
On February 22, 2022, a lower court in Chennai metropolitan granted bail to all ABVP Karyakarthas, upon release from Puzhal Jail, ABVP Girl’s Karyakarthas represented their grievance of constitutional safeguard and fundamental rights were flouted by DMK and their state police while they were arrested to National Commission of Women. The then National General Secretary of ABVP, Nidhi Tripathi said, “The Government of Tamil Nadu can go to any extent for not delivering justice in Lavanya case. Putting our karyakartas in jail also reflects their intentions. But, ABVP is not afraid of such heinous acts. Today the National Commission for Women has been apprised about the anti-constitutional action taken by the police and ABVP is committed to strengthening the fight for justice for Lavanya.”
On March 3, 2022, NCPCR released their detailed report on Lavanya’s case after highlighting this angle also asserts on crucial aspects “the Investigating officer that till date, not been able to identify the vendor /the source from which the alleged substance/poison/herbicide has been procured. During the inquiry, it was observed by the team that due process of law as well as procedures established by law has not been followed while conducting the investigation.” With the proofs required to substantiate evangelical coercion being whitewashed, even CBI enquiry would not bring justice as Indian Laws are based on evidences.
Since NCPCR report and investigations were based on ABVP’s plea, DMK government used its best hegemony to coerce the Karyakarthas on bail by suspending them from campuses to continue education. For which many Karyakarthas resumed their study after court orders. Meanwhile on February 19, 2022, ABVP Former National President – Dr Subbiah Shanmugam was arrested to take vengeance against ABVP with fabricated angles. But that cases could not stand before the judiciary and was quashed by The Hon’ble High Court of Madras.
Justice Delayed, and then?
Two years have passed since Lavanya’s passing away, and her profound impact for not yielding to the institutional evangelical mafia make her a martyr. The martyrdom are for greater cause. In her case, the hegemony which Church mafia exerts are huge on Tamil Nadu Politics. To save the educational campuses from the church mafia, courageous constitutional reforms are required constitutionally. Further, the martyred Lavanya case shall not be seen isolated. There are various such coercions which are in place but are intangible as infant students accede to evangelical structures. CBI investigating this case must arrest the Sagaya Mary and Raquel Mary immediately. Following which, the funding routes to Sacred Hearts School, Michaelpatti must be probed to check the financial transactions incurred to whitewash the crime scene. CBI must also take due cognizance of NCPCR report on their ongoing investigation and add that investigation officer of Ariyalur Police as third accused for not seizing the crime scene. The parties who has whitewashed the crime scenes shall be arrested.
Further, Government of India must pass Lavanya Act – which protects the child from institutional evangelism also create a separate pool of funds that can be used for safeguarding the students rescued from institutional evangelism.
The case of Lavanya needs to reach a wider audience to bring more awareness to institutional evangelism. If institutional evangelism is not true, how does Christianity reached the tribal belt of North East States in India? Why does a paucity in sociological and anthropological dearth exists on such evangelical and missionary activities exists? Lavanya’s case is the prime example showcasing the entire hegemonical penetration of Church Mafia on polity to influences States for their religious conversion. A case study is underway and book on Lavanya’s suicide is soon to be out to bring more warriors to fight for her justice!