Forced Conversion and Torture of Children at Two UP Shelter Homes
Children rescued from shelter homes in Noida and Meerut say they were tortured, starved and forced to read Bible.
Jagat se aisa prem kiya. Usne eklauta putra diya. Jo uspe vishwas kare. Jo usper vishwas kare uska nash na ho aur wo anant jeevan pae.
(For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.)
Recites six-year-old Prapti, flawlessly in her feeble voice.
Prapti, her 12-year-old sister Priyanka and nine-year-old brother Rohan, were among the 30 children rescued from two illegal shelter homes in Greater Noida and Meerut. It has been alleged that the homes run by Emmanuel Seva Group were carrying out forcible conversions. They tortured children and often punished them for not following orders.
“We were being forced to recite and learn passages from the Bible. If we didn’t, we were beaten up with belts and slippers,” says Priyanka, who didn’t like the daily exercise that involved reading the passages and memorising them. She was once beaten up for making mistakes.
The children said they were even forced to eat buffalo meat. Not eating it meant punishment.
Gaurav, Rescued Child
The caretaker tied my wrists and hung me from a ceiling. He whacked me with his belt because I refused to eat the meat that was served to us for dinner.
Paying the Price for Being Poor
“All that would not have happened, if we weren’t so poor,” says Nutan, the mother of the three rescued children.
Devraj Joshua, who runs the Emmanuel Seva Group India, met Nutan in a hospital. He promised to help her and her family, who didn’t have a place to live. He promised jobs, a place to live and education for her children.
He promised to raise my children and make them government officers.
The hope of a better future drove Nutan to send her children, including her three-year-old daughter Prapti, far away from her. While the children were in Dehradun and Meerut, both husband and wife worked with the home in Naya Haibatpur village in Bisrakh area, Greater Noida.
“We were asked to distribute copies of the Bible and pamphlets, they didn’t even pay us. We weren’t allowed to meet our own children. They told us that we would get to meet them five times in a year,” she says.
When I told Devraj that I wanted to meet my children, he asked me to pay 1.5 lakh rupees. If I had that kind of money, I wouldn’t have put my children in the shelter home.
Alleged Forced Conversion and More
Nutan and her co-worker Bati, whose son was in Dehradun with Rohan, allege that the staff in the Bisrakh shelter home sexually harassed the children.
A girl told me that one of the staff members misbehaved with her. She said that he tried to make sexual advances towards her. I decided to raise an alarm. If this was how children were being treated here, I wondered what was happening where my kids were. I was especially worried about my daughters, who were in Meerut.
Police Conducts Raids, Rescues Children
Nutan called the Child Helpline which contacted the police and conducted raids at Naya Haibatpur village in Bisrakh area and in Meerut. Her children were among those rescued, whom she saw after three years.
A case has been registered at the Bisrakh police station. Three people, including the caretaker, have been detained and are being questioned. The police is now investigating the claims of the rescued children. The accused, Joshua Devraj, hasn’t been arrested yet.
Nutan says after what has happened, it will be difficult for her to trust anyone. More than anything else, she blames poverty.
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