Jesuit Father Irudaya Jothi who heads the Udayani Social Action Forum and collaborates with other social activist groups, including women’s organisations, was among the rest people to take a stand when a Christian institution was targetted and a nun raped, speaking and protesting against violence against women and the apparent apathy of the Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal state government, which has floundered in the past in tackling public outrage over rape cases.
Father Irudaya Jothi was one of the first people in Kolkata’s Christian community to hear about the events at Ranaghat. “As the President of the Kolkata chapter of the Conference of Religious India [an umbrella group of Christian nuns and priests], I usually get all information fast,” he said.
Like many other Jesuit priests, Father Jothi doubles up as an activist. He works with the Udayani Social Action Forum and collaborates with other social activist groups, including women’s organisations.
When he received an invitation from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kolkata to attend a solidarity meeting on Park Street on March 16, a woman activist pointed out to him that it was specifically addressed to Christians. “I was not for” limiting the appeal to Christians, Father Jothi said. “What had happened [in Ranaghat] was a violation against all humanity.”
Father Jothi also found himself in disagreement over the name that had been give to the meeting. “Why solidarity? Why not protest?” Ahead of the meeting, when he went to the archdiocese office to attend a discussion, he was taken aback to see that an Anglo-Indian MLA of the Trinamool Congress was present there. “He was saying you cannot use a mic [microphone], you cannot allow anyone to speak…Such a frightened approach, I didn’t like it. He was saying people will come from different places, light a candle in front of the Mother Teresa statue and go. But I persuaded them that no, we will come together in the park, we will have a small podium, we will stand on that and speak. I asked the Archbishop what are you afraid of, the culprits are at large, at least we can ask what have they [the state government] done..”