Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. This time around, child rights body, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has moved the Supreme Court for a Supreme Court monitored SIT probe into the cases of alleged sale of children at the organisation’s shelter homes.
The child rights body has moved the apex court under Article 32 of the Constitution, seeking enforcement of the Fundamental Right of prohibition of trafficking in human beings under Article 23 of the Constitution.
NCPCR has stated, “During course of inquiry by petitioner (NCPCR), shocking revelations were made by the victims which included the factum that the children were being sold in the children homes. These facts were emphatically brought to the notice of the state government (Jharkhand) but continuous attempts were made to sabotage and derail the inquiry.”
The statutory body has also stated that it had taken cognisance of a media report in 2018, which stated that a Missionaries of Charity member was arrested in connection with her involvement in illegal child trade.
Following this, the body had also visited a Ranchi centre of the said organisation that was founded by Mother Teresa. During its visit, the NCPCR had found gross irregularities in its functioning. The NCPCR has also stated that it had also sought details from the Missionaries of Charity about the number of child care institutions and a list of children and their legal status.
The Missionaries of Charity gave incomplete information, providing details of only 78 child care institutions, instead of the 80 institutions maintained by it.
The NCPCR has said that the information provided by the Missionaries of Charity suffers from several ambiguities. Children who are not orphan, surrendered or abandoned too were kept at the institutions. Moroever, children were not produced before the Child Welfare Committees and others.
The NCPCR has further stated that it had also sought information from other states about the working of Missionaries of Charity centres. The statutory body added, “The reports from some states were found to be either full of discrepancies or unsatisfactory in nature.”
It must be noted that the accusations of selling children have brought Missionaries of Charity time and again since the allegations surfaced for the first time in 2018.
It had been revealed that the records of more than 280 births at the organisation’s facilities were missing. More than 450 pregnant women were admitted in various homes run by the Missionaries of Charity organisation but the records showed only 170. The discrepancies took place between 2015 and 2018.
Former Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi had also instructed the state governments across India to conduct investigations against all child care facilities run by Missionaries of Charity in their jurisdiction.
The incident had revealed the nefarious ways of the Missionaries and conversion industry in the tribal dominated state of Jharkhand. Former Jharkhand CM, Raghubar Das had however taken on the conversion industry and the threat posed by foreign funded churches and their organisations.
With moves like crackdown on Christian missionary operated non-governmental organisations (NGOs) over charges of misuse of foreign funds for religious conversion and for indulging in anti-state activities, and enactment of the Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Act 2017, Das had made it amply clear that he wouldn’t allow the conversion industry to pursue its sinister objects.
The issue with Missionaries is not just conversion and destruction of the indigenous culture of states like Jharkhand. The real is much larger and far more serious than what meets the eye. It is well established that funding Naxalites has been a large part of the missionaries’ agenda. Missionaries benefit from violence as they undertake massive conversion exercises in the garb of setting up relief camps.
The fact remains that Naxalism, conversions and anti-development activism are all interrelated issues in the state and none of them can be tackled in isolation. Illegal trade in newborn babies is a reprehensible, clear cut case of human trafficking. But the necessary implications could be even wider and more serious.
It needs to be find out where the funds out of trafficking in newborn babies are being applied. Given the murkiness of their working and the larger picture of a Missionary-Naxal Nexus, it is very much possible that illegal child trade is being actually used for anti-State activity.