Indian court stops eviction of orphanage inmates

Indian court stops eviction of orphanage inmates

The Catholic institution is located on a prime plot eyed by vested interests with the backing of officials and Hindu groups

UCA News reporter, Bhopal
Published: January 07, 2022 08:57 AM GMT
Indian court stops eviction of orphanage inmates
The chaotic scene outside St. Francis Sevadham Orphanage on Jan. 6 when officials accompanied by police tried to forcibly evict child inmates before a high court order restrained them. (Photo supplied)

Child inmates of a Catholic orphanage received timely respite when the highest court in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh restrained government officials from forcibly evicting them.

“It was a terrible situation, No one can ever imagine,” said Father Sinto Varghese, director of St. Francis Sevadham Orphanage in Shyampur in Sagar Diocese. “A contingent of government officials accompanied by police equipped with riot and emergency vehicles came around 1pm on January 6 and began forcing our children to accompany them.”

The government officials wanted to immediately remove 44 inmates, refusing even to wait until they had their lunch. They cited the false propaganda by Hindu activists that the orphans were being served beef and being forced to convert to Christianity.

Both the accusations were earlier found to be false in an inquiry conducted by district police officials.

A principal bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in Jabalpur questioned the government’s unusual move, saying “there is nothing on record as to under what circumstances and what provision the children are being shifted from the orphanage to some other place.”

The court also directed the district’s Child Welfare Committee to submit a report within two weeks explaining “why the children are being shifted in this cold weather and at this difficult time when there is a rising threat of Covid/Omicron [viruses].”

The children were being forcibly taken away against their wishes. The officials did not let them have lunch and a medical team began examining them

It is also directed officials to furnish a report “on the availability of space where they are trying to shift these children”.

The government attorney argued that the legal license to run the orphanage had expired in 2020. However, the lawyer for the orphanage pointed out it had applied for renewal of the license but the government had been sitting on it since 2020.

“It is planned conspiracy to malign us,” said Father Varghese.

The children were being forcibly taken away against their wishes. The officials did not let them have lunch and a medical team began examining them in a tearing hurry, he said.

Even as officials continued to mount pressure on the children to board vehicles waiting outside, the order of the high court against the eviction arrived.

Earlier, government officials had managed to take away three children from the orphanage. A separate case to ensure their return was still pending in the high court, he said.

Father Varghese said false information was being spread by vested interests against the Catholic institution despite “selfless service to the poor and marginalized sections of society for the past 145 years.”

It is said that the orphanage is located on a portion of a prime 277-acre plot of land granted to the Church during the British era that is now being eyed by some vested interests backed by pro-Hindu groups and government officials.

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