Is Our Humanism Dead?
Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ
I had been to Indore in Madhya Pradesh in the la
st week of February 1995. On February 26 my
attention was drawn to a news item covered by all
newspapers that day. I extended my days in
Indore to go deeper into the news
item. I was shocked when I inve
stigated the fact
s of the news.
A question came to my mind: “Has our humanism dead and gone?”
The gist of the news was that on February 25
some unknown assailants had murdered Sr. Rani
Maria in a bus at Kalda Ghati, about 40 kilometers
from Indore. Sr. Rani
Maria died on the spot
with more than 40 wounds inflicted on
her head and stomach with a knife.
Without much details the natio
nal papers like the TIMES OF
INDIA covered the news on its
My investigation revealed
that Sr. Rani Maria was traveling
in the morning at 10.30 am in Kapil
Bus coming from Udayanagar
to Indore with some
45 to 50 passengers. The unknown assailant
attacked Sr. Rani Maria some 17 kilometers away
from Kapil police choki. When the bus slowed
down the assailant draged her out
of the bus catching on her ha
ir and stabbing her on her head
and stomach murdering her on the spot.
According to the information when Sr. Rani Mari
a was attacked, all the passengers ran away for
fear. But when the bus driver drove the bus to
the police situati
on, all the passengers boarded the
bus. The First Information Report (FIR) was file
d in the police station.
But the police did not
take down the names and addressees of the passengers.
What shall we make out of it? Were all the
passengers the supporters or accomplices of the
crime? Among the 50 old passengers no one dared
to save a woman from
being murdered? Has
none of those men ever promised to protect a woman by accepting the Rakhi – the auspicious
thread of protection tied on their ha
nd by their sisters or woman friends?
None of them have had any sympathy for the
woman being dragged and stabbed? Have our
hearts been hardened lik
e stones? Have our sensibilities beco
me blunt without any feeling? Has
our humanism as Indians been dead and gone?
When I delved deep into the murd
er case of Sr. Rani Maria, I ca
me to know that it was not an
event happened on the spot but has been a systematically planned and executed crime by a hired
The victim Sr. Rani Maria was doing social works in Udayanagar and in the close by villages.
She was a well known person as a professionally qua
lified social worker and an efficient and
competent nun. Extending her services she had b
een organizing groups a
nd associations like
Seva Dal, Mahila Mandal. She
was very successful in organi
zing people and getting them
involved in their own developm
ental activities and projects.
Then, Sr. Rani Maria had also started literary
programmes, small home industries and saving
schemes. She also helped the poor people to get
government helps and bank loans. More over, in
collaboration with other NGOs she was conducting
seminars and training programmes to create
political awareness at Panchayath leve
l among the poor tribal and Dalit people.
Though the money lenders and other
self-seekers were against the l
iterary training, the saving
schemes, village awakening seminars of the trib
als and other people, the nun continued her social
work activities with patience and
courage without ever deviating he
r path of service to the poor.
As a result the money lenders, shop keepers and
others could not explo
it the tribal and Dalit
people as they used to do in the past. They saw
an enemy in the efficient social worker Sr. Rani
Maria. They decided to do
away with her and planned a strategy to murder her…
As the Catholic Bishop George Anathil, SVD of
Indore said there was also political reason for
the murderer of Sr. Rani Maria. In the Panc
hayath election of December 1994 the BJP of Kanad
village and the Congress supporters
of Semali village clashed. Ther
e were also a few Christians
among Semali villagers.
After the clash the villagers of Semali came to Ud
ayanagar to file a case. The Vice Sarpanch of
Udayanagar Jivan Singh quarreled with thos
e who came and was wounde
d. From the people
involved in the quarrel some Chri
stians came running and hid themse
lves in the sisters’ convent
at Udayanagar. Later the police arrested and took
them into custody. Sr. Rani Maria and a priest
of the mission institution there intervened and fr
eed the Christians standing surety for them and
they engaged a lawyer for the case.
The Vice Sarpanch of BJP and his accomplices were angry with those who helped the people in
police custody and were plotting and l
ooking for an opportunity for revenge.
That opportunity came to murderous plotters an
d their accomplices who came to know that Sr.
Rani Maria was going to Kerala for home leave on
February 25. So they cooked a plan to finish
off Sr. Rani Maria. According th
e sources, they plotted to ki
ll Sr. Rani Maria on the way
between Udayanagar and Indore.
The hired murderer Samandar Singh and his accom
plices came to know that Sr. Rani Maria was
going to travel in Kapil Bus service going to In
dore via Udayanagar and they got into the bus.
When Sr. Rani Maria entered the bus they helped
her taking her bag and insisted that she sit in a
back seat instead of going to occu
py a front seat. They attacked her as the bus reached at the pre-
In the life journey people come and go. But a few people become immortal because they occupy
a place in the hearts of thousands of people. Sr
. Rani Maria was such a person. The proof is her
Sr. Rani Maria’s body was broug
ht to Indore and was placed
in the red Church (Catholic
Cathedral) for the veneration of people. When
the body was taken for burial on 28 February to
Udayanagar 102 kilometer away from Indore, more
than 100 vehicles and thousands of people
joined in her funeral procession. On the way fr
om Indore to Udayanagar villagers put up
innumerable banners of Sr. Rani Maria paying homage to her name.
When the procession reached Udayanagar about
twelve thousand people from towns and villages
irrespective of religion a
nd caste, rich or poor welcomed her. They walked on foot for 3 kms to
the mission Church. They paid homage to Sr.
Rani Maria participating in the solemn burial
Speaking about the funeral proces
sion Bishop George Anathil sa
id that it was no ordinary
procession but a pilgrimage and a
victory procession. In life as we
ll as in death she proclaimed
Is Our Humanism Dead?