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India

Mother Teresa nuns face second baby-selling charge

Indian rape victim complains that she delivered a baby in the nuns' shelter but they sold the boy without her consent

ucanews reporter, Ranchi

ucanews reporter, Ranchi

Updated: October 31, 2019 04:59 AM GMT
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Mother Teresa nuns face second baby-selling charge

Missionaries of Charity nuns pray at Mother Teresa's tomb to mark her 109th birth anniversary in Kolkata on Aug. 26. (AFP photo)

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Missionaries of Charity nuns in India's Jharkhand state are facing a police probe following allegations of selling a baby, the second such charge in little over a year.

Following complaints by a rape victim, police are investigating the role of Nirmal Hriday (tender heart), a shelter home for unwed mothers that the nuns manage in Ranchi, capital of the eastern state.

It is the second such case against the care home. In July 2018, police arrested Sister Concelia Baxla, who ran the home, based on a complaint of a childless couple that a staff member took money promising to give a baby boy but failed to keep the promise.

The new case comes barely three weeks after 62-year-old Sister Baxla was released on bail on Sept. 27.

“A special branch of the state police has been asked to probe as the allegation is serious,” a senior police official, who did not want to be identified, told ucanews on Oct. 30.

The woman’s complaint said a man raped and impregnated her when she was a schoolgirl. When she was six months pregnant, the nuns accepted her in the care home, where she delivered a baby boy in 2013.

After delivery, she left the home but the nuns there “sold the baby” without the consent of her or her family, the complaint said.

The complaint also named Ursuline Sister Jonita Dungdung as a collaborator in the alleged crime. 

‘Baseless allegation’

“This is absolutely a baseless allegation. The nuns will cooperate with any probe to prove our innocence,” Sunita Kumar, spokesperson of the Missionaries of Charity congregation that St. Teresa of Kolkata founded in 1950, told ucanews on Oct. 30.

“We have been involved in helping the poor, unwed mothers and those suffering from mental and physical ailments. The world knows the services of Mother Teresa sisters. But even after doing such wonderful service, we are being victimized for no fault of us.” 

Sister Dungdung, who took care of the woman after her delivery, said the complaint has no basis.

“The mother of the rape survivor had surrendered the baby boy to the state child welfare committee. The baby was later given for adoption. We have all legal documents to prove it,” she said. 

‘Part of a plan”

Father Xavier Soreng, a Jesuit social worker based in state capital Ranchi, told ucanews that missioners are targeted because of "our uplift of the poor and the downtrodden.”

He and other Christian leaders maintain that the state government, run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), supports a radical Hindu agenda to tarnish Christian services and missioners to keep people away from them.

“Now, things have reached such a pass that no one will dare to help the needy. Any help from a Christian is a crime now, and all those helping are forced to undergo a police probe,” he told ucanews.

The Missionaries of Charity congregation has 5,000 nuns in over 770 houses, 243 of them in India serving the “poorest of the poor.” They run homes for the destitute and dying besides shelter homes for unwed mothers and orphanages.

Jharkhand has close to 1.5 million Christians, almost all of them tribal people, in a population of 32 million. Its 4.3 percent Christian population is nearly double that of the national figure.

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