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27 Nov 2011

PUDR joins other rights organizations and civil liberties bodies as well as common grieved citizens of this country in condemning the gruesome murder of Sr. Valsa John in Puchwara village of Amrapara block/PS in Pakur district of Jharkhand. Sr Valsa was hacked to death by a gang of assailants on the night of the 15th Nov 2011, inside her rented accommodation in the village.

Sr. Valsa, a native of Kerala in India, had been an ordained nun of the congregation named Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary. She had been staying in Puchwara, Jharkhand for over a decade and had started with a small programme of forest conservation initially. That had enraged the local timber mafia and stone-quarry owners in the neighborhood. Afterward she spearheaded the Rajmahal Pahar Bachao Andolan,(RPBA) an assertion of rights of the adivasis of some 30 odd villages against ‘displacement’ and pollution caused by the mining adventures of the PANEM coal company (a Punjab based mining corporation). Following an agreement with the PANEM in 2006, on compensation and other related issues, the assertion softened. But before that a few select-activists of the RPBA died in a series of ‘accidents’ and Sr.Valsa John also had received death-threats. In 2007, despite court orders she was arrested by the local police in RPBA related cases, (which made the court to censure the police and warn them against such acts of contempt of court). This was indicative of the inclination of the local police. And it is relevant to point this out here that right-wing hindutva forces, with the generous backing of the mining companies have always been active here.

Sr. Valsa was running a free school for the children of the village and also a dispensary. Last but not the least, on 8th Nov 2011, a rape victim, aged 20, was not allowed to file her FIR. Sr. Valsa was meant to accompany her to the local PS the day she was murdered. Prior to the killing of Sister Valsa, 3-4 of her colleagues have died under mysterious circumstances in truck overrunning them etc. and locals suspect hand of the Company PANEM.

We are shocked to learn that the local police refused to help Sr. Valsa despite her complaint the night before on flimsy grounds. Their failure to provide security to Sr. Valsa and other adivasis there is not only appalling but a scary road-mark for future of civil society in general and rights/social activists’ in particular. The visit of the PANEM official to the crime-scene is another glaring example of police negligence.

PUDR strongly condemns the failure of Police and administration in protecting Sr Valsa and demands immediate Judicial Inquiry and stringent action against the culprits.

We also condemn this tendency to shift the blame to Maoists in any case of loot and killing without proper verification and investigation. In this case, the blame was shifted from the company against whom Sister Valsa had so openly campaigned to Maoists by way of an irresponsible statement made by one IPS officer there.


Harish Dhawanand and Paramjeet Singh.