Daya Bai had burnt her body to ward off priest's advances

Burned my body to ward off advances from a priest: Activist Daya Bai
Daya Bai is currently involved in social work in Andhra Pradesh.

Kottayam: Social worker Daya Bai, who had actively joined the protest against Endosulfan use in Kerala, revealed on Tuesday that she used to burn her body with candles to ward off sexual advances from a senior priest during her brief stint at a convent in Bihar. She said it was not easy for her to speak out against the harassment because of societal and cultural pressure.

Asked about the rape allegations of a Kerala nun against Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, she said there was no point in questioning the credibility of the victim. The nun from Kuravilangand in Kottayam had accused the bishop of raping her 13 times. “In my experience, you can't reveal such matters to anyone. The conditions in the convent may not be favourable,” Daya Bai said.

Supporters of the Jalandhar Bishop had questioned why the nun did not speak out earlier against the clergyman who allegedly raped her during 2014-2016.

“Nowadays, a pleasant atmosphere prevails in several convents. Maybe, you could tell these things to someone close to you. Nuns close to me have told me so. We could not even speak about such experiences even during the holy confession,” she said.

Daya Bai, who spent some time in a convent in Hazaribagh (now in Jharkhand) before she chose social work in 1965, said she was totally unaware of the world outside when she joined the convent. The activist from Pala in Kottayam district of Kerala worked among the Gond tribes of Mahoba in Uttar Pradesh for their rights.

She said she was shocked when a priest accosted her when she was alone in the convent. “I never expected such a behaviour from him,” she told Manorama Online.

“I could not tell anyone about it. I can't tell you how scared I was. I feared that the harassment would continue. The only solution I could think of was to burn my body with a candle. I thought I would be spared because of the wounds. I always kept away from him. When I resisted, even nuns started mentally torturing me,” she added.

She said it took years for her to speak out. “When I wrote about it in a book, people asked me why did I pen down such things. That is what our culture taught women. Why should they talk about their problems?”

She said she was happy that a group of nuns had come out against the accused bishop. “ I have no expectations from the Catholic Church in the case. Let law and truth prevail,” she said.

Daya Bai is currently involved in social work in Andhra Pradesh. She has also vouched her support for the victims of Endosulfan in Kasaragod district of Kerala.

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