Gujarat: Why was a Christian ashram accused of conversion even after the investigation found nothing wrong?

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On August 29, the Chairman of the National Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (NCPCR), Priyank Kanoongo, visited the Ashram of the Missionaries of Charity in Makarpura, Vadodara. He allegedly found some “anomalies” and wrote to the collector to take action. Following this, the social assistance service of the administration, the local police, etc. carried out investigations and found no problem in the functioning of the institution. This information was shared in a letter written by Archbishop Emeritus Stanlius Fernandes, Apostolic Administrator of Baroda, this “investigation” actually appreciated the dedication of the Missionaries of Charity (MC) nuns founded by Mother Teresa.

However, the bishop writes that he appears to be under “pressure” that even after this the organization was convicted under the 2003 Gujarat Religious Freedom Act for allegedly “harming Hindu religious feelings. And “to have attracted young Christian girls” to the refuge house. An FIR was filed on Sunday based on a complaint from district social defense official Mayank Trivedi who, along with the chairman of the district child welfare committee, visited the girls’ home run by the missionaries of charity in the Makarpura region on December 9.

According to the bishop, the sisters (nuns) did not even know that an FIR was registered against them until they received an appeal. Afterwards, the media called for questioning, and officials from the welfare department, child welfare committee, and the police also went to “interview” the girls whose names were written on a Bible. . “No MC sister was allowed to attend this interrogation”, shared the bishop, adding that it is about an “attempt to denigrate” Christian institutions as places of “conversions”. Trivedi alleged that the daughters of the household were “forced” to read Christian religious texts and participate in Christian faith prayers, in order to “orient them towards Christianity”.

The FIR quoted by Indian Express said: “Between February 10, 2021 and December 9, 2021, the institution was involved in activities aimed at intentionally and bitterly injuring the religious feelings of Hindus… The girls inside the Home for Girls are drawn. adopt Christianity by making them wear the cross around their necks and also placing the Bible on the cellar table used by the girls, in order to force them to read the Bible… It is a crime attempt to force conversion nun about girls. ”

The Missionaries of Charity denied any forced conversion, while the police opened an investigation after receiving the complaint. A spokesperson for the Missionaries of Charity told the media: “We are not involved in any religious conversion activity… We have 24 daughters at home. These girls live with us and they follow our practice because they see us doing the same when we pray and live. We did not convert anyone or force anyone to marry the Christian faith.

According to press reports, the Child Welfare Committee complained that the MC had “forced a Hindu girl to marry a Christian family in accordance with Christian traditions” and also alleged that the girls living in the home host received “non-vegetarian food despite being Hindus.” Deputy Police Commissioner SB Kumavat told media that the district collector had given instructions to initiate a case against the organization after a committee examined Trivedi’s allegations. He said: “The district collector formed a committee after the complaint from the Child Welfare Committee. A team of members from several departments investigated the allegation, following which a complaint was filed. Police will investigate the allegations and gather evidence to see if the claims are true. ”

Vadodara Police Commissioner Shamsher Singh also told The Indian Express that police have opened an investigation into the alleged conversion of a woman from Punjab. He said: “There was a case of a woman from Punjab who was converted by the Missionaries of Charity, after living in the house, which the committee reported… There are comprehensive guidelines in place for houses of charity. accommodation, which they must follow. We will examine the case on the basic FIR. The organization was reportedly convicted under the IPC sections for “deliberate and malicious acts aimed at outraging the feelings of any class by insulting its religious beliefs (295 A), by deliberately speaking words that hurt a person’s religious feelings (298 ) as well as the Gujarat Law on Freedom of Religion, 2003, which provides for the prohibition of forced conversion (Article 3) and the punishment for forced conversion with a sentence of three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50,000 and, in the case of a minor being the ‘victim of a forced conversion’, imprisonment for four years and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh (Article 4).

It is interesting to note that the team of the National Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (NCPCR), led by its president Priyank Kanoongo, has been reappointed for a period of three years from October 17. . This is Kanoongo’s second term as president of the supreme body for children’s rights, he was first appointed to this post in 2018.

Surprise inspection at a youth hostel in MP

On November 8, the team of the National Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (NCPCR), led by its president Priyank Kanoongo, carried out a surprise inspection at a girls’ home in Kheri village in Raisen district. , located about 50 km northeast of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, citing allegations of religious conversion. After the inspection, the Commission would have demanded a report within 10 days. The home is run by Catholic nuns, and the NCPCR alleged that “religious conversions are suspected there”. President Priyank Kanoongo shared a video, on his social media, of the team of men inspecting the girls’ rooms, and noted that copies of the Bible and a religious text were found there.

The raid team asked if “children participated in the anti-AAC protests”

In October 2020, the National Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (NCPCR) carried out a “surprise raid” in two foster homes for children in which social activist Harsh Mander had been associated. Oddly enough, the raid group, according to Mander, who was quoted in the media, asked welfare workers if the “children participated in the anti-CAA protests.” The raid was carried out on houses named Ummeed Aman Ghar and Khushi Rainbow Home on October 1, and according to Mander, who issued a detailed statement, the raid “was led by the chairman of the NCPCR himself.”

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