After the members of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity were accused of child trafficking, the Roman Catholic Church has come out in support of its members, reported NDTV.
A senior church official blamed the police and said that the accused nun was innocent and was forced to make a confession.
The Bishop also called out the police for treating the organisation as a “criminal gang”.
1 Woman Staffer Arrested, 2 Detained
On 4 July, a woman staffer, Anima Indwar, of Ranchi’s Nirmal Hriday shelter was arrested, while two others, including a nun, were been detained on charges of trafficking an infant. The shelter for unwed mothers in Ranchi is run by the Mother Teresa-established Missionaries of Charity.
According to a report in India Today, the women in custody revealed that in certain cases they stole babies for a price. The police have launched an investigation based on the confession.
Around 25 people, belonging to a group called India First, staged a protest outside the Missionaries of Charity building on 9 July, demanding a CBI probe into the allegations, The Indian Express reported.
Following the revelations, Jharkhand’s Child Rights body has also asked for a search at all the centres of Missionaries of Charity.
Police Claims Child Sold For Rs 50,000
The Ranchi police said they have recovered one baby from the grip of Missionaries of Charity, which has been in the news for selling newborns to childless couples in Jharkhand, reported Financial Express.
The recovered baby, who was born in December 2017, was going to be sold for Rs 50,000 to a childless couple, FE reported, quoting the police. The report also said that the child who was born to a lady staying at the charity home did not have any records in their registers.
Meanwhile, senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai’s tweet on the scandal has come under fire. Sardesai tweeted, “Missionaries of Charity baby selling scandal is shocking. But should the criminal act of a few be allowed to tarnish legacy of Mother Teresa or to make this about ‘Christianity’ instead of crime? Would a robbery in Tirupati temple tomorrow become about Hinduism?”
The shelter came under the scanner after Rupa Verma, the chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee, filed a complaint. PTI reported that an inmate of Nirmal Hriday gave birth to a baby boy on 1 May, following which Anima Indwar struck a deal with a UP-based couple on 14 May.
Not the First Instance of Its Kind
According to the police, this is a case of human trafficking and an FIR has been lodged under Section 370 of the IPC, Shyamanand Mandal, the officer-in-charge, told The Hindu.
A police official investigating the case told IANS: “We are investigating all angles… of the sale of children to childless couple. We have gone through records of the pregnant women and newborn babies. There are discrepancies in the records”.
As a precaution, the district unit of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), on 6 July, shifted 22 children of Shishu Niketan, another shelter home in the vicinity, to a new accommodation, according to Hindustan Times. Thirteen unwed mothers living in Nirmal Hriday were also moved on the same day.
“This was not an isolated case. Both the accused have admitted before the police that they have sold four children so far. We have videographic and written evidences of their statements,” Mandal told HT on Friday, 6 July.
In a statement to Reuters, Missionaries of Charity spokesperson Sunita Kumar said: “It is a horrible story….we are all shocked. It is against our moral conviction.”
This is not the first time that charity shelters in Ranchi have come into news for alleged child trafficking. According to The Telegraph, in 2014, the then Child Welfare panel chairperson Om Prakash Singh had written a letter to the state government alleging child trafficking at shelters at Jail Road and Hinoo. “My voice was suppressed… I was physically prevented by the head of Shishu Bhavan, which had a powerful lobby backing it, from conducting an inquiry,” Singh told The Telegraph.
Govt to Freeze Funding of Missionaries of Charity
On Wednesday, 11 July, Jharkhand DGP wrote to home secretary to freeze the bank account of Missionaries of Charity, reported India Today. The action has been initiated after it was found that five organisatiosn under Missionaries of Charity were receiving foreign funding.
(With inputs from NDTV, Reuters, The Hindi, Hindustan Times, The Telegraph and news agencies)