Madhya Pradesh HC orders 7 Christian children taken away by police to be returned to parents

October 31, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Madhya Pradesh, October 2017: The Madhya Pradesh High Court has ordered the state government to return seven Christian children, who were forcibly taken to the police by Hindu Dharm Jagran Manch gangsters, to their parents. The children had been put in state custody in the BJP-ruled state for seven days.

The children, hailing from Pentecostal Christian families, were on their way to Mumbai to attend a Bible-reading session with the consent of their parents. But they were forcibly made to deboard at the Indore railway station by members of the Hindu Dharm Jagran Manch, a right-wing organisation which has vowed to “finish” Christianity and Islam by 2021.

The Manch members claimed that the children were being forcibly taken to Mumbai and later to Kerala for conversion, reported The Indian Express. The gangsters proceeded to beat up two people who were accompanying the children – Anita Joseph who was to accompany the children to Mumbai along with her 19-year old daughter, and Amrit Kumar Matera who had come to drop off the children.

Based on a complaint by the Jagran Manch members, the Government Railway Police booked Anita and Amrita for alleged kidnapping and under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, and remanded them in police custody. The children were sent to a shelter, while Anita’s daughter Sophie was asked to go home because she is an adult.

Amrit was also booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) allegedly under pressure from the Manch.

The parents of the children filed a habeas corpus petition for the return of their children. On Monday, when the case came up, the parents of the children told the bench of Justices SC Sharma and Alok Verma that they were concerned about the safety of their children and that the police refused to release them despite requests. “The constitutional rights of the petitioners have been imperilled by illegal detention of their children without any reason,” their petition said.

The parents submitted the baptism certificates of their children in the High Court to disprove the allegation that some children were Hindus and were going to be converted to Christianity in Kerala.

The petition for the children’s release said that Vinod Sharma, a Jagran Manch member who led the gang to the station, was threatening the petitioners.

Dennis Michael, who filed the petition on behalf of the parents, told The Indian Express that he was brutally beaten up when he reached the police station after hearing the news. The Jagran Manch gangsters beat up and abused the children and their relatives, but the police did not act against them, he said.

Advocate KP Gangore, who appeared for the parents, said that the court asked the children questions and ordered that they be immediately handed over to their parents. “The court asked the home secretary and in-charge of Indore GRP station to file a detailed report,” he said.

Gangore said that the girl whose complaint was cited by police to book Amrit under POCSO denied the charge in court. The matter has been listed for hearing on November 6.

John Dayal, Secretary General of the All India Christian Council, told Newsclick that the level of impunity enjoyed by groups such as the Hindu Dharm Jagran Manch ever since Shivraj Singh Chouhan became the Chief Minister is criminal. “There have been instances of pastors being arrested with their families and being forced to spend Christmas in jail for no crime. In the entire central and western MP region, house worships have been disturbed, and groups with connection to the Sangh Parivar are ruling the roost,” he said.

“The children in the present case are confirmed Christians. Under what law were they kept in custody? They have been totally traumatised. Strict action should be taken against the police officials who acted at the behest of thugs,” Dayal said. “Goons of the Sangh Parivar, encouraged by the state, are trying to frighten the minorities,” he added.

“These groups are emboldened by the tacit support of the ruling party, and the social disturbance caused by the fundamentalists upsets the social fabric of society,” Archbishop Leo Cornelio of the Catholic Archdiocese of Bhopal told Crux .

Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal of the Catholic Diocese of Indore told that the arrests constitute an attempt by hard-liners to intimidate missionaries. “We are always on their radar and it is quite scary,” he said. The Bishop said that the Church people are aware of the dangers. He has asked priests, nuns and lay people engaged in social work to keep all their documentation up to date and to be transparent in their activities.

– newsclick

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