A 53-year-old nun from Kerala who led campaigns to defend tribal rights was shot dead yesterday in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. Sister Valsa John, who belonged to the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, was killed during an alleged encounter near her home in the early hours of yesterday morning in Pakur district, near the city of Dumka.
According to Sister Lilly Mary, the dead nun’s congregation provincial, Sister John was working with people belonging to the Santhal tribe and was living alone. She had been protesting against mining corporations that were exploiting the tribal people of the region, she said.
The nun, who hailed from Eranakulam in Kerala, was arrested in 2007 for protesting against a coal mine on tribal land that had allegedly been acquired illegally in Jharkhand’s Pakur district. The provincial, however, said that case had been settled.
The Catholic bishops’ conference spokesman, Father Babu Joseph, said the local church will demand a thorough investigation into the tragedy by the state government. Church leaders in Kerala have expressed shock and outrage over the killing of Sister Valsa John.