In a disturbing incident unfolding in Maharashtra, two underage girls from the Pune district have been subjected to torture and coerced into converting to Christianity. The girls, who recently lost their mother, were initially forcibly placed in an orphanage in the Daund region, where they endured mistreatment and were compelled to embrace Christianity.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has taken note of the situation and has called for decisive action. In a notice issued on November 24th, the NCPCR revealed that the minors were forced to read the Bible. Additionally, it was reported that the girls in the orphanage were subjected to harassment, including tasks such as cleaning toilets with acid and performing chores unsuitable for their age.
The Commission highlighted a violation of Article 25 of the Indian Constitution in this case, and it pointed out that provisions under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, have also been breached.
The girls’ father, who is described as a neglectful drunkard, has shown little concern for his children following the death of their mother. According to an IHRC member, a local social worker had been monitoring the family’s situation and, upon witnessing the dire condition of the two girls, recommended sending them to a Pune local hostel for better education.
Subsequently, the aunts of the girls enrolled them in the Ramabai Mission orphanage in Daund. Assured that this arrangement was temporary and that the girls would be released upon approval for admission to a local Pune-based hostel for better education, the aunts were left disillusioned when this promise went unfulfilled. Instead, the girls were unlawfully confined by the Ramabai Mission orphanage for approximately two years, enduring harassment and being compelled to clean toilets.
According to the complaint lodged with the NCPCR, the orphanage deceitfully retained the girls, leading the aunts to believe that their education and marriage would be managed. However, during the two-year period of forced captivity, the girls endured severe physical and mental abuse.
“They were subjected to frequent beatings, their clothing was torn, and they were denied proper attire. Compelled to clean public toilets, they were deprived of basic personal hygiene, leading to fungal infections on their hands. They were never provided with soap or toothpaste and were forced to shower openly in front of others instead of in private,” detailed the complaint.
Moreover, the religious beliefs of the girls became a target. According to the complaint, the orphanage authorities vandalised the Lord Krishna idol that the girls had brought with them during their temporary admission. Additionally, the girls were coerced into reading the Bible and forcibly converted to Christianity.
As per a report by OpIndia, an IHRC member said, “The aunts of the girls went to the orphanage several times to get them back but they were not entertained, were given vague answers, threatened, and driven out. Aunts were occasionally allowed to meet them only for 5 minutes, after pressuring the orphanage management to return the girls.”
“Their baptism was conducted by pastors from a local church on the Mission premises. Attendance at church every Sunday and the recitation of Christian prayers were mandatory, with any disobedience met with physical beatings and withholding of food for the entire day,” stated the complaint.
Despite multiple attempts by the aunts to reclaim the girls proving unsuccessful, the breakthrough came when the aunts sought assistance from a local Hindu organisation. Upon verifying the incident, the local Hindu organisation, in collaboration with the Indian Human Rights Council (IHRC), lodged a complaint with the NCPCR.
The NCPCR has called for stringent action against the orphanage for mistreating the girls and coercively converting them to Christianity. Additionally, the Commission highlighted that the details of the two minors had not been uploaded to the Commission’s Bal Swaraj Portal-Covid Care, citing the suspicion of COVID-19 as the reason for their mother’s death.
While an FIR in the case has not been filed yet, legal formalities are under examination, and an ongoing investigation is in progress.