The people came to Sr. Rani Maria and the Priest-in charge of that mission station to get some legal help to fight their case in the court. She interfered in that and helped to release these people from the prison. Of course this angered the other people and they were waiting for an opportunity to kill her. When the opponents came to know that on 25th February, she will be leaving to Kerala, they made the plot to kill her. As she was travelling by the bus, through a forest road she was stabbed to death. She had 51 injuries on her body. She died calling out the name of Jesus. On the third of the murder, the persecutors were caught and the executor of the murder, Mr. Samunder Singh was sentenced for life- imprisonment.
At her very death onwards there was an inner voice in the heart of many for forgiveness to the persecutors. Rani Maria who used to pray for the conversion of sinners every day after the holy communion, might have interceded for her persecutors. Sr. Selmy Paul, her younger sister in our Congregation, says that she got the interior courage to forgive the assassin as she touched the dead body: ... when I touched the mortal remains of my sister, everything she had told me came to my mind and I felt a bit relieved of the heaviness in my heart. Following that I got a mental disposition to forgive the assassins.
The reconciliation and repentance of the assassin was the fruit of long years of prayer and penance. It was a Carmelite priest, Fr. Michael, CMI, known as Swami Sadanand, a great ascetic and a mystic who initiated and mediated the process of reconciliation. Actually he had not seen Rani Maria but when he heard of her murder and the imprisonment of Samunder, he had an inner urge to meet Samunder Singh in the prison. He went to Indore Central Jail and met him. He says that at his first visit to Samunder in 2002, he just embraced him, without any explanation, telling that God has forgiven you. Samunder Singh could not believe this and he replied: "But how can I believe that you have really forgiven me? Even God cannot forgive me. I have committed a great crime." Swami realised that he needed a more realistic symbol of the expression of forgiveness. He made frequent visits to Samunder Singh in jail and developed a good rapport with him. Then Swami informed Sr. Selmy Paul about the whereabouts of Samunder. In fact she was also longing to meet him and to express forgiveness. The best way to make him experience the forgiveness is to follow the style of Incarnation of Jesus. Going beyond the barriers of religion and caste, both Swami Sadanand and Selmy Paul decided to celebrate the fraternal love by tying Rakhi. Rakhi is part of the Hindu festival of Rakshabandan, where the sister ties the sacred thread on the wrist of the brother and celebrate the fraternal love.
Bond of Love on Rakshabandan on 21 August 2002
On 21 August 2002, Sr. Selmy Paul along with Swami Sadanad reached the Central Jail in Indore. Indeed it was a great celebration of breaking the wall of hatred and tying the knot of love relation. Selmy, who tied rakhi on the hand of Samundar as a sign of her accepting him as her brother. Slowly the attitude of Samunder Singh began to change when he is filled by the tender love. It was a golden day of the opening of the door of mercy. This gesture of forgiveness was followed up in the subsequent years and it became a way of proclaiming the forgiving love of Jesus. On 24 Feb 2003, her mother Mrs. Eliswa Paily and brother Stephan Vattalil also visited him in the jail and pardoned him whole-heartedly. When the old mother Eliswa kissed Samunder Singh's hand she said, "I was longing to kiss his hands as for his hands are stained with my daughter's blood".
Forgiveness has the mesmerising power to transform bitterness and hatred into pure love. The unconditional forgiveness which he received helped him to give forgiveness to all - even those who led him to crime. The co-prisoners and the jail authorities began to notice his change of life. The rays that radiate from the act of forgiveness will cast luminous light across the boundaries.
Released from Jail, 22 August 2006
The unassuming Christian forgiveness of the parents and the family members of Rani Maria was not confined merely to the symbolic gestures. The divine mercy urged Swami Sadand and Sr. Selmy Paul to release him from the jail. Swami Sadanand took the initiative to release him from the prison and by applying for the mercy petition.
The civil authorities exclaimed that this was a rare request in the history of the civil court that forgiving the murderer unconditionally and applying for his mercy petition by the aggrieved party. Thus on behalf of the diocese of Indore, the FCC sisters, Sr.Selmy Paul and the family members of Rani Maria, the mercy petition was forwarded to the Governor. It was accepted without delay and finally on 22 August 2006 Samunder Singh was released from the prison. As soon as he was out of the prison, being filled with love and gratitude, Samunder Singh went to the tomb of Rani Maria in thanksgiving.
Seeking Blessings from the Parents, 13 January 2007
The joy of love and forgiveness goes beyond the barriers of language, caste, and region. On 13 January 2007, twelve years after the murder of Rani Maria, Samunder Singh along with Swami Sadanand visited the aged parents and the family members of Rani Maria. With the tears of joy and sorrows all embraced him with much love. Samunder went to the room of Mr. Paily, Rani Maria's father who was seriously sick on the bed and grasped his feet as a sign of asking pardon and received his blessings. It was his first meeting with her father. Tears were rolling down from the eyes of everyone when the father imposed his hands on the head of Samunder Singh to blessed him. The mother Eliswa too embraced him by kissing the hands of one who killed her loving daughter and blessed him. Can a Mother forgive the killer of her daughter? Definitely, she was feeling the loving and forgiving touch of God himself in her heart. In fact, the difference of language was not a barrier to the communication. The smiling faces and loving and tearful eyes were more eloquent and powerful than any language on earth.
Celebrating the joy of forgiveness they dined together around the same table. The joy of forgiveness was overflowing from everyone. Though years have passed, the love bond with Samunder Singh is continued and became stronger. Even now, on the day of Rakshabandhan, the memory of the love bond is renewed by Sr. Selmy Paul by tying Rakhi on Samunder Singh.
"Forgiveness can truly transform hatred into love". Unconditional love and forgiveness of the family members of Rani Maria blessed Samunder with a spiritual awakening. He is liberated from the shackles of hatred and revenge and started enjoying the inner freedom. Every year without fail, he comes for the death anniversary celebration of Rani Maria at Udainagar and participate in the Holy Mass with his own offering. The conversion of Samunder is not the conversion from one religion to another rather a conversion of the heart - a conversion from a life of brutality and violence to a life of repentance and reconciliation.