Act of Forgiveness
After the martyrdom of Sr. Rani Maria, her family has forgiven the murderer Samunder Singh. Sr. Selmy, younger sister of Sr.Rani Maria narrates about the reconciliation.
“After a long seven years of prayer, on 15th July 2002, I got a phone call from Fr. Swami Sadanand CMI. He asked me ‘Are you ready to go and visit Samunder Singh in the jail?’ It was a surprise at the same time a great joy for me. I replied I was waiting for this since long. But who will take me to jail? Fr. Sadanand agreed to make arrangements for the visit. He took permission from my Provincial and Bishop of Indore. They were ready for the same. This was for the first time that I met Fr. Swami Sadanand CMI – a man filled with the Spirit of God and love for all men and all creatures. So I was convinced that Fr. Swamy was the holy priest whom the Holy Spirit chose as the messenger of reconciliation. Irrespective of cast and creed he accepted everyone. A good doctor for the sick, a good friend for sinners, a good water diviner to those who have no water. As water diviner he reached Udayanagar in 1999 for the first time.
“It was at this time that we heard the verdict on Sr. Rani Maria’s assassin -Samunder Singh. He was sentenced to life long imprisonment. Fr. Swami Sadanand heard about the verdict and he thought that something needs to be done for this man because Sr. Rani did well to all and went for her heavenly reward. For this why should a man spend the whole of his life in the jail? Father could know the jail where he was, because he was already an active member in the Prison Ministry. He visited Samunder in the jail several times and counselled him. Only then he contacted me over phone. Samunder said to Fr. Swami ‘My mistake is grievous. No one in the world can forgive me’.
“On 21 August2002 Rakhabanhab day along with Fr.Swami, Provincial Sr.Lissy Jose, Superior Sr. Grace Mary and me started our journey to Central Jail, Indore. I had carried Rakhi and sweets with me. On reaching the jail, the police men brought Samunder Singh before us. Fr. Swami introduced me to him. He was shivering... Then he prostrated in front of us and pleaded–‘Forgive me....forgive me...I am doing penance…forgive me.’ I said in reply; ‘God has forgiven you. We too forgive you... be at peace.’ Then I tied rakhi in the hands stained with the blood of my sister Rani and kissing it I accepted him as my brother. Then I gave the sweet – laddu to him. He expressed his love and gratitude by placing the laddu in the mouth of every one. Fr. Swami embraced him. My heart was filled with peace and joy much more than ever before. It was really a heavenly experience for me. I received the grace to feel that he is my own brother.
When I shared this news to my parents and siblings, they too expressed their desire to go to jail and meet Samunder. Thus once again on 24th February 2003, I accompanied by my mother, brother Stephen, Mother General Rev. Sr. Marianna, Fr. George Pulikalan- parish priest of Pulluvazy, Fr.Swami and Fr. Prasad SVD, went to the Central Jail in Indore and met Samunder Singh. My mother Eliswa expressed her forgiveness by kissing his hands which were stained once by the blood of her own daughter and accepted him as her son. She gave him the sweets she had brought from home. Which heart will not melt at the affection of such a mother towards her daughter’s assassin?
“My father could not come due to his ill health. Samunder had given a letter for my family members when I went to tie Rakhi on 11 August 2003. In that letter he had asked pardon to everyone in the family and had expressed his desire to go home and meet her parents when he comes out in parol.
“As a result of the contacts with the high officials Fr.Swamy could succeeded in bringing him out in parole. On the way he visited Bishop Goerge Anathil in Bishop’s House, Indore and seeked his blessings. The next day he visited Sr.Rani’s tomb and room at Udainagar along with Swamiji and me. We had lunch with sisters at Snehasadan. He spent his parole at home and went back to jail with a greatful heart. He got parole for the second time also. Slowly I felt that if he is my brother and he was forgiven by all, why he should remain in jail. When I shared my feelings to Swamiji he was of the same opinion and suggested me about his release. When we approached Bishop Anathil he also agreed to the idea and co-operated whole heartedly. Fr. Swamy Sadanand drafted the application and we submitted it to Chief Minister, Jail Minister, IG and SP with the sign of Bishop Anathil, our Provincial Sr. Rosily, my parents and me. Fr. Swamy Sadanand met the Governor personally and gave application to him. Governor said, ‘Only you Christians could forgive this way.’ It was a long process. After one year, we were asked again to submit application in stamp paper. We completed all the formalities. Then after one year, on 22 August 2006, the same day of Sr.Rani’s feast, Samunder was released from Jail. It was very surprising because just one week ago officials told me that it will not happen soon. I thanked God for His great intervention.
Meanwhile, her aging father fell sick. He was at home in Pulluvazhi near Perumbavoor, Kerala. Fr. Sadanand wanted the father to meet Samunder Singh at the nearest and grand him for forgiveness as well as his paternal blessings.
“One day, while we were talking on telephone I mentioned to Samunder about my father’s serious illness. Immediately he expressed his desire to visit my parents at home in Kerela. I went home early. On13th jan. 2007 Swamiji and Samunder reached my home at pulluvazhy in Ernakulam Dt, Kerala. It was a great event in my life. Samunder prostrated down at the feet of my mother. She accepted him as her own son. Then I took him to my father who was bed ridden for a long time. Samunder kissed his hands and sat down asking pardon. When I introduced him to others he was struggling to face them. After receiving blessings from parents and sibilings he had lunch with us. Then, he was taken to the room where Rani’s photo was kept. When we sang a hymn he could not control himself. He cried bitterly…My mother hugged him.. consoled him.. though she was in tears. The whole family was in sobs and tears…Before leaving my home Samunder told me again and again…. ‘I can bear these tears … but not the tears of mother…. How can a mother forgive the murderer of her daughter?’ I told him, ‘She has forgiven everything and has accepted you as her own son.’ He looked at me in surprise… During his short stay in Kerala, Samundar visited FCC Generalate, and the Major Archbishop Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil.
“The presence of Samunder Singh on every death anniversary of Sr.Rani Maria is a real surprise to the participants. On Raksha Bandhan day, wherever I may be Samunder visits me and we continue the custom of tying rakhi. If I call him for anything he comes like a faithful brother keeping aside all his works and assignments.
“On 25th April 2016, Fr. Swami Sadanand who was a heart patient breathed his last in a centre of mentally disabled children run by Augustinian Sisters in Kandua. It was heart breaking news indeed. Fr. Swami was on his way to Dewas jail for a visit. I was in Kerala at that time. As soon as I got the news, I informed Samunder Singh. I started from Kerala. The funeral was on 30th April. His mortal remains were entrusted to AIMS medical college for the medical students according to his wish. A man becoming alive after death.. Samunder along with his wife Swati escorted Swamiji to the medical college and he fulfilled all his responsibilities to his spiritual father like a faithful son. With his blessings he is going forward courageously.
“One day I asked Samunder about what were his feelings when he prayed at the tomb of Sr. Rani Maria. He replied ‘I had fear in the beginning, but later I started experiencing a kind of peace and happiness in the mind and I felt some rays from sky falling on me. I used to pray to Rani Didi whenever I go for some important work.’
“24 August 2016 I got the news of my mother’s serious illness, I started to Kerala. Her condition was deteriorating day by day. One day Samunder rang up to me. I could not but tell him about my mother’s condition. I knew that he would come home when he gets the news about her illness. Now Fr. Swami is no more and I will have to care for him. Samunder reached home on 31 August 2016. He gave a spoonful of water to mother and she drank it. He spent almost two to three hours with mother. Rev. Fr. Josanto–the brother of Fr. Swami came to my help. I sent Samunder to Sagar Mission House. As if my mother waited for her third son Samunder to reach, at 11 pm, on 2 September 2016 her holy soul flew away to heaven for her eternal reward. As soon as Samunder got the news he reached Aluva in Kerala and accompanied by Mother General Ann Joseph, General Councillor Sr. Starly and other team members reached home to pay his last tribute to mother. He carried the coffin of mother along with the other sons and fulfilled his duties as the third son.”