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No letup in harassment of Church-run orphanage in India

Inmates of the orphanage were shifted in violation of an order by the Madhya Pradesh High Court, says its director
The St. Francis Sevadham Orphanage in Sagar diocese in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh

The St. Francis Sevadham Orphanage in Sagar diocese in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. (Photo supplied)

Published: May 25, 2023 12:03 PM GMT
Updated: May 25, 2023 12:41 PM GMT

A government-run child welfare agency in central India has defied a court order and asked a Church-run orphanage to move out its children in an alleged move to close down the institution.

Ten children from St. Francis Sevadham Orphanage in Sagar diocese in Madhya Pradesh state, ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, were moved out in violation of a high court order against such a move.

“Our 10 children were moved in the past week in different batches,” Father Sinto Varghese, director of the orphanage, told UCA News.

“The district Child Welfare Committee (CWC) asked us to produce the children before it and we complied with it,” Father Varghese said on May 25.

The shifting, according to the priest, “is in violation of a January 2022 order of the Jabalpur bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court" that restrained the CWC from moving inmates of the orphanage.

The CWC had on May 10 issued an order to shift the children from the orphanage to government-aided facilities in gross violation of the high court order.

The orphanage had filed a contempt of court case against officials of the federal and state child rights commissions after their surprise raids on the orphanage on May 8 and the order to shift the inmates.

Among the 27 inmates one boy was forcefully taken away by the inspection team on May 8, the priest recalled.

“They are now trying to shift them in batches under some pretext or the other,” the priest said.

The contempt of court case will come up for hearing on June 12 after the court's summer vacation. 

“Now, we have 16 children and we do not know what they will do before the next hearing of the case,” the priest said.

 “These are all part of the deliberate attempt to target the orphanage and tarnish its image, leading to its closure,” observed Father Varghese.

“The orphanage has been serving poor children for over a century, but now the government authorities have been harassing us for no fault of ours,” the priest lamented.

Dalits (former untouchables) and tribal people make up 75 percent of the north central Sagar district’s population of 375,000.

The orphanage began to face the wrath of the child rights bodies in Madhya Pradesh after it submitted an application for renewal of its registration in 2020. The matter is still pending in court. 

The state government, according to Father Varghese, “neither renewed our registration nor made any communication to this effect,” apparently with an ulterior motive to shut it down forever.

The orphanage is located on a portion of a prime 277-acre plot of land granted to the Church during the British colonial era that is now being eyed by vested interest groups, backed by the BJP and government officials.

Chandra Prakash Shukla, CWC president in Sagar, could not be contacted as his cell phone was switched off.

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2 Comments on this Story
VARUN
Many orphanages have turned into conversion centers. They are taking undue advantage of of India's rich culture of openness and converting the underprivileged Hindus. One should not serve in guise of converting the beneficiaries.
RICHARD ROZARIO
Hi all, can our renowned Cardinals and Archbishop report it to our PM Shri Narendra Modi as this doesn't paint a good picture right now. At present, he is in Australia to maintain trade relations but how will other Countries tolerate what's happening in his own Country towards Catholics. Thank You Richard Rozario
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