Some reports say that it was social media that got this scandalous story out and some others suggest that it was the painful cries heard by the neighbourhood. Whatever the source may be, this story has rocked the serene hills of Coimbatore. 130 victims were abducted and held captive at a ‘temporary shelter home’ owned by a Christian NGO at the foothills of Attukal, situated in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. A video surfaced from a shelter at Attukal that showed an inmate with shaved head describing how they were mere daily wage workers, physically capable and were forcibly held captive in the shelter and beaten up for questioning NGO members.
The viral video lead to protests from locals, and nearby villagers gathered outside the shelter, sloganeering and demanding the release of the captives. Soon enough the police arrived at the place and tried to pacify the situation. They informed the locals that the NGOs had acquired the necessary permissions from the district authorities to provide shelter to destitute and homeless persons on the streets. City Police Commissioner V. Balakrishnan assured that “An Assistant Commissioner of Police will inquire into the issue” to find out if anyone was taken against their will into the shelter home.
Eventually, as tensions rose a few arrests were made.
Coimbatore superintendent of police (SP) V Badrinarayanan said: “The revenue officials also intervened in the incident. There were around 120 people in that shelter out of which 90-95 have returned to their homes and others have been shifted to authorised government care centres. A case was registered against the six accused in connection with the incident and they were produced before the judicial magistrate.”
The six accused are identified as B Jubin, 44; K George, 54; A Selvin, 49; V Balachandran, 36; C Arun, 36; and S Symon Senthilkumar, 44. The NGOs running this alleged racket are:
· Bless India Children Home
· Anbu Jothi Ashram
· Paralogathin Pathai
· Meetpu Trust
· Adaikala Karangal
· Pugalidam Trust
But beyond the fine print of this case, it’s important to listen to the voices that have actually gone through this terrible ordeal. Here are a few first accounts reported to TOI.
P Nataraj, 47, a captive in the “shelter home” recounts his ordeal. “Those who refused to get their heads tonsured were beaten up with PVC pipes. We were ill-treated by the NGOs. I am a construction worker and I have a family in my home town. But the NGO members treated me as destitute.”
S Kumar, 42, was working a cook in a hotel reveals how he was taken “I was waiting in front of the CMCH to get free lunch provided by some NGOs. Four men came there and forcibly took me inside a van and drove to the shelter. They beat many people at the shelter and tonsured their heads.”
The worst part about this incident is that there was already a negative reputation of the so-called NGOs functioning in that locality. This particular ‘temporary shelter home’ was sealed in relation to a POCSO case a few years ago and it could only re-open with the support of a DMK Councilor. The harrowing stories that have come out from this event and the manner in which the police were speaking on behalf of the NGOs show that the powers that rule there have looked the other way for far too long. It required a political upheaval by a 250-strong, BJP’s local cadre to get things moving. Even then all six accused are out on bail in just one day.
Finally, the question remains that why people abducted and what were was going to be done to them. It is widely believed that the numbers are far higher than 130, to almost 250 people and the reason they were held there was for illegal organ trafficking. Looking at the way the appeasement politics is being played out in Thondamuthur, it looks very unlikely that a true picture of the evil deeds committed by the Christian NGO workers is going to find the light of day.