Martyrdom

Martyrdom

    25 February 1995. Sr. Rani Maria rose early in the morning as usual. She was to catch the bus at 7 a.m. to Indore and from there to the Provincial House in Bhopal and then to Kerala to meet her parents. Sr. Lisa Rose describes this day on which Sr. Rani Maria was martyred: "We, the inmates of 'Snehasadan Convent' were already awake before the sun-rise. When I reached the chapel for the morning prayers I found that Sr. Rani Maria had already reached the chapel before everybody else. After the morning prayers we assembled in the refectory while Sr. Rani was having her breakfast. She was about to begin her journey. As it was her custom before leaving the house, she picked up the word of God. She got the words, 'Do not be afraid, I have carved your name on the palm of my hands' (Is.49/16).

    "Two of us accompanied her to the bus stand. The bus in which she was supposed to travel did not arrive. When enquired about it we were told that the bus was cancelled. Then Sr. Rani said, 'This must be God's will. I will take the next bus. We shall go back to the convent and return when it is time for the next bus.' As we were coming back to the convent we saw the bus by the name 'Kapil' by which she had to travel next. As I knew the conductor I told him: 'One of our sisters has to go to Indore. Please reserve for her one seat.' He said, 'Sister, this bus leaves at 8.15. You may board the bus in front of the convent.'”

    "When it was time, the bus arrived in front of the convent. Her companions bade her farewell. Sr. Rani Maria and I crossed the road. I was carrying her luggage which I kept at the door­step of the bus. A youngster, dressed in white, took it and placed it behind the front door of the bus. When Sr. Rani Maria stepped in, I heard him telling her, 'you may go back and sit there’. The bell rang and the bus moved off. As I was returning, I was thinking about something that happened unusually. Whenever we sisters travel, we were made to sit at the front of the bus. But today it was just the opposite. What could be the reason. As I reached the convent, I carried on with my work.”

    "At about 10.45 a.m. the telephone rang. I attended the phone call. I was told that it was a wireless message from the Police Station. 'Has any of your sisters gone out?'  ‘How many of them?' 'Which way?' 'Where to?' All these questions were asked and I answered all of them. I enquired to see if any accidents took place. The person on the other end replied: 'Sister no accident had taken place, but something worse. After five minutes I shall let you know more details'. With these words he put off the telephone. I was worried and confused. I did not know what to do. I called the members of the community and explained to them about the message. After five minutes when I was not getting any more telephone call I rang up to the police station. I was shocked to death to hear the alarming news: 'Your Sister is murdered by someone. The body is lying on the road. You may go and take the body.' We ran to the chapel. I held myself to the tabernacle and cried. For about fifteen minutes we stayed there not knowing what to do; neither we were not able to do anything.

    "In between, let me narrate how Sr. Rani Maria was killed. (I am presenting these details basing myself on what was told to me by one young man who is our neighbour and was traveling in the same bus. He narrated the event of murder to me after a few days it took place. When others in the bus suddenly got down from the bus this man continued to sit in the bus due to high fever.)

    'Though the assassins came in a group of three, the whole murder was committed by a single person. When the bus reached the entrance of Nachanbore hill, a man dressed in white, named Samandar Singh, got up, approached the driver and asked him to stop the bus. As the bus was stopped, he hurried down from the bus. In his hand there was a coconut. After touching his forehead with the coconut he threw it down on a stone and broke it into pieces. With the pieces of coconut he re - entered the bus and distributed them to the passengers. He stretched out his hand to Sr. Rani with a piece of coconut but withdrew it as if to fool her. He appeared to be a very happy man. Sr. Rani Maria asked him, 'Why are you so overjoyed today?' He suddenly drew out a knife and replied, 'it is nothing but this', and instantly pierced the knife into Sr. Rani Maria's stomach! Blood gushed forth. 'Jesus'-she cried out. She tried to catch hold of the knife. The passengers were terrified. They ran down from the bus. The murderer kept on stabbing her. By that time she understood that the leader who was encouraging the assassin and telling him to kill her was one who was well known to her. Though a few people tried to prevent the assassins, they drove them away hurling the knife at them. The murderer tried to drag her out of the bus. She was writhing on pain. She caught hold of the iron bar on the bus. He cut those hands!!. He kicked her out of the seat. Then catching her by the legs he dragged her on to the door!! Her face was disfigured due to this brutal act. The skin on her face was peeled off. She cried aloud. He kicked her out of the bus through the door steps. She was hanging half-way from the bus. He asked the driver, who was standing far away, to run the bus over her body. But the driver did not succumb to this terrible and devilish wish. Again, he pulled her fully out of the bus. He kept on stabbing her all over the body, piercing her head, cheek, forehead, nose, back and stomach!!! The knife cut her body over fifty times!!! She was screaming and shouting with severe pain. She loudly cried: 'Jesus, Jesus'. She was no more able to resist. Her body was gradually becoming lifeless. Slowly she breathed her last. She died in the midst of the people, many of whom she knew, some of them whom she did help. Nobody could help her. The assassins were more powerful. She died an agonizing death. Like Jesus, she too, shedding blood, laid down her life for her people. The murderers abandoned her lifeless body and ran away.

    "Let me continue to narrate the developments after I received the message of her murder. As we got the information from the police station, Sr. Sheeja, Sr. Licy, two doctors and I left hurriedly to the spot of the murder. On reaching there we were told that the body was brought to the police station in the same bus. Soon we reached the Kambel Police Station in the district of Indore. The scene there was astounding. In the midst of thousands of people there lay the bus. Our Bishop George Anathil, hearing about the murder, had already reached there. He took us to the bus. The sight in the bus was heart-breaking. As I looked through the back door of the bus, I turned numb. Sr. Rani's body lay bathed in blood. We could not control our loud cry. We lifted up the body and laid it in our vehicle. I sat close to our Rani on the journey to Indore Bishop's House. I removed the veil from her face. I saw her mouth wide opened and the tongue shrank inside. One of her eyes was badly damaged and the tip of the nose was hanging down.

    "As we reached in Indore, the mob was flowing on hearing the tragedy. The day after was Sunday. The body was taken to the Indore Cathedral Church in the morning. Bishop George Anathil celebrated the Holy Eucharist together with many priests and people. Later, the body was kept at the centre of the church and people were flocking to pay her respect.

    "At eight o'clock in the morning, on 27 February, the funeral ceremony began in the presence of many bishops, priests and people belonging to different religions. After the Holy Mass the funeral procession set off from Indore towards Udainagar. The body was laid in a specially prepared bus. More than 130 vehicles escorted the body. The procession crossed through forests, hills and the by-lanes of the villages. Three kilometers away from Udainagar all the vehicles were stopped. The people took to foot. They carried the dead body to our convent. The inmates of the convent were speechless. We all cried!. Rani was the most active person in the convent till the other day!! Today, our Rani is life-less!!! How could we face the reality? The coffin was placed at the entrance of the chapel so that the thousands who were gathered there could pay homage to their beloved.

"About 12000 people took part in the funeral and the final services. The eminent people of the gathering stated their grief in public. By six o'clock in the evening the body was laid to rest in a specially prepared tomb."