(Here is an article I wrote a few years ago on the martyrdom of Sr. Rani Maria for a journal)
There were not many buses from Uday Nagar to Indore. Sister Rani Maria smiled at the rustic old woman who sat on the seat opposite to her, as she always did. The people of Uday Nagar were familiar with that innocent smile which radiated pure love for humanity. The nun from Kerala, the southernmost state of India, had been with these poor, illiterate people of the villages in the middle part of India. She had been working for the uplifting of the poor and the downtrodden. A nun, who belonged to the Clarist congregation, Sister Rani Maria worked day and night for the wellbeing tribal people. And the people loved her.
Sister Rani was totally unaware that an assailant by the name Samundar Singh and his accomplice named Jeevan Singh had got into the bus with a diabolic intention. Actually, the reforming efforts of Sister Rani Maria and her congregation had infuriated the elite class of the society. For many years, the upper class had been exploiting the lower class and the illiterate tribals, who never knew about their rights as the citizens of the nation.
Sister Rani’s intervention brought a new spirit of self-esteem and quest for knowledge among the tribals. They began to think about their dignity as human beings and their rights. But, there was a group of people who feared these lower class people being educated. They thought that they would lose their grip on the downtrodden if they learn about their human rights. They would no more be able to ill-treat them and exploit them as they were doing it for centuries. And the Zamindars (Land owners) knew who was behind the reformation of the poor. They targeted Sister Rani Maria, the kingpin of the rise of down trodden. Thus, the deadly Samundar Singh was entrusted with the task of finishing her off.
A holy life ends on the half way
Sister Rani Maria was immersed in her silent prayers as the bus cruised through the valley of Nachanbora hills. Samundar Singh knew that no one was going to help the poor nun at this lonely place. He made signs to his accomplice. Both of them jumped up from their seats. Samundar stabbed the helpless nun to death, as Jeevan got hold of the frail woman. With wounds all over her body, Rani Maria fell on the floor like a scarlet flower. As the startled passengers looked on in panic, the brutal assailants hurled her corpse out of the bus. This incident happened on February 25, 1995.
The story should have ended there. But, the Almighty God whom the nun served all her life was not going to abandon his beloved daughter’s legacy in some unknown soil.
The Incredible Power of forgiveness
The master minds behind the heinous crime were too intelligent to escape the law. Eventually, one man alone was arrested: and that was Samundar Singh. He was sent to Indore jail.
The spirit of Christ is alive in the world through innumerable acts of kindness and forgiveness. Even after twenty one centuries, the spirit lives on, transforming many lives. The same spirit, which inspired Sister Rani Maria to abandon a peaceful life in her homeland in view of serving the downtrodden, lived in the heart of her little sister, Selmi, who was also a nun. She knew that her sister had died a death of martyr. She believed that the life of her elder sister was valuable in the sight of God. She believed in the power of forgiveness.
On August 21, in the year 2002, Sister Selmi visited Samundar Singh in the Indore jail. It was a Rakhi day, a festival in India when every woman tied a band on the wrist of her brother or anyone whom she considered her brother. Sister Selmi had secured a Rakhi and wrapped it well in her handbag.
When the jail warden announced that sister of Rani Maria was out there to see him, many thoughts crossed the mind of Samundar Singh. When the killer finally made it to the parlour of the jail, he could not believe his eyes! The sister of the one he had killed with brutal stabs, stood there smiling at him compassionately!
He was clueless, when the nun in a religious habit tied the Rakhi band on his stained wrist by which he stabbed Sister Rani Maria. When he realized the gravity of the moment, the hard-hearted killer broke down. This gesture changed the man forever. First time in his life, he was experiencing the power of forgiving love. He fell hands down before Christ, the forgiving God!
“Only Christians can forgive like this!”
On February 24, 2003, the parents of Rani Maria paid another visit to Samundar Singh in the hail. The mother of Rani Maria kissed the hands of the killer saying, “Let me kiss these hands on which the blood of my daughter was splashed!” That was more than Samundar Singh could take. It was far beyond the imagination of a normal human being. He broke down into tears.
“Only you Christians can forgive like this! Only you can!” the wounded killer exclaimed as he cried aloud. That was a moment of victory of Christ – the victory of Rani Maria’s martyrdom.
The resurrection of a sinner
Rani Maria’s relatives declared that they have unconditionally pardoned the assailant. On August 22, 2006, Samundar Singh was set free from the prison. The first thing he did was to visit the tomb of Sister Rani Maria. Later, he came down to Kerala to pay a visit to the parents of Rani Maria. The meeting was highly emotional with penitence and forgiveness.
In his later life, Samundar Singh earned a living by farming. He is ever ready to do any help to the nuns of Uday Nagar.
Glory of Red!
The heroic life and sacrificial death of Rani Maria grabbed the attention of the world and the global Church. Vatican found her life worthy of praise. Years of study and analysis into her life and death approved that the life of Sister Rani Maria was powerful and holy enough to raise her to the podium of the saints.
– Abhilash Fraizer