In a distressing incident from Pune district, Maharashtra, two minor girls, aged 9 and 11, have reportedly been subjected to torture and forced conversion to Christianity. The girls, who recently lost their mother, were initially placed in an orphanage in the Daund region, where they allegedly faced mistreatment and religious conversion.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has taken cognisance of the matter and issued a notice on November 24, demanding strict action. According to the NCPCR, the girls were made to read the Bible, harassed, and forced to perform inappropriate chores at the orphanage.
The Pune Police have filed an FIR against the Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission and its three Matrons—Sakshi Bhalerao, Nisha More, and Vaishali Bhasker—for assaulting and torturing the girls and forcibly converting them to Christianity.
The accused have been booked under sections 354B (Assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe), 341 (Punishment for wrongful restraint), 295A (Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class), and 298 of the Indian Penal Code. Additionally, sections 11 and 12 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 have been invoked. The FIR is based on the complaint filed by the Indian Human Rights Council (IHRC), a Pune-based NGO.
The two girls, confined to the Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission orphanage in Daund, were allegedly forced to clean public toilets, denied proper food and clothing, and coerced into baptism and conversion to Christianity. They were also reportedly prohibited from wearing Hindu symbols and made to believe in the exclusive existence of Jesus as God.
According to the FIR, the girls were mistreated in various ways, including being subjected to unusual haircuts, forced to eat specific foods, and assaulted by the matrons. The authorities at the orphanage allegedly claimed foreign funds as a reason for not releasing the girls to their family. They were not allowed to worship Hindu deties, wear bindi or bangles in the campus.
The maternal aunt of the girls, who took responsibility for them after their mother’s death, raised concerns about the deceptive practices of the orphanage. Despite promises of financial support, education abroad, and covering marriage expenses, the orphanage reportedly refused to allow the girls to meet their family and misled them about their future.
The girls’ father shared minimal bond with them given that they were girls. “My sister and her husband shared no relation after these two girls were born. She had been staying with our mother in Pune. And after she died in 2021, I took responsibility for her daughters (two victims of this case),” said the maternal aunt of the two minor girls.
According to information obtained by OpIndia, the girls were enrolled at Bapusaheb Pawar Prathmik School in Bhavani Peth. The school had affiliations with NGOs like Bharatiya Samajseva Kendra, ensuring the welfare of its students. In 2021, a social worker from the NGO contacted the girls’ aunt, expressing concerns about the father’s ability to care for them. The social worker recommended admitting the girls to a reputable hostel for improved education and lifestyle.
Despite multiple refusals from the aunt, the social worker persisted and eventually contacted Bal Kalyan Samiti in Yerwada. Through this connection, the girls were admitted to Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission in Daund.
Assurances were given to the aunt and other family members that they could meet and talk to the girls whenever desired. The family was also promised that all financial needs, including education abroad, would be taken care of, along with covering the future marriage expenses of the girls.
Contrary to the initial understanding that the girls would be placed in a hostel, they were deceptively kept at the orphanage and confined for nearly two years. During this period, the girls were denied the opportunity to meet their aunts and communicate openly with them.
In their confession to the police, the two minor girls revealed that they experienced torture at the orphanage, were lacking proper clothes and food, and were forced to perform menial tasks such as cleaning public toilets and washing vessels. The stark contrast between the promised assurances and the harsh reality of their living conditions has raised serious concerns about the welfare and treatment of the girls at Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission in Daund.
According to the details outlined in the FIR, the two minor girls endured a harrowing series of abuses and mistreatment at the Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission in Daund. They were compelled to consume only white bread and Grape Juice (referred to as Red wine), and were explicitly forbidden from praying to Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Instead, they were coerced into adopting the belief that “Jesus is the only existent God, and all Hindu Gods and Goddesses are dead.” The girls were forcefully baptized and converted to Christianity, and attendance at Sunday churches and reading Christian prayers became mandatory conditions for receiving proper food. Shockingly, they were subjected to open baths without clothes in front of the public. The unsanitary conditions they faced while cleaning toilets with chemicals and acids resulted in infections in their fingers. The Matron Nisha More and Vaishali Bhasker allegedly subjected the girls to frequent torture, assault, and beatings. Furthermore, the victims were verbally abused based on their low caste, given unconventional haircuts, and deliberately made to wear torn clothes, with photographs taken in such degrading attire. The two minors were also prohibited from wearing Bindi and bangles, and Matron Sakshi Bhalerao reportedly confined them to the bathroom for extended periods as punishment for not adhering to her orders.
The aunt of the girls expressed in the complaint that they were restricted from communicating openly during visits, closely monitored by orphanage authorities. Despite initially being treated well when visiting the girls at the hostel, the family’s requests to take them home for vacations were denied, and gradually, they were kept away.
On May 3, 2023, after the mistreatment came to light, the girls’ father sought their return, asserting his capability to care for them. However, Nisha More from the orphanage rejected the proposal, claiming the girls now belonged to the orphanage, emphasising financial support received from foreign countries. The accused assured the father that the orphanage would take full financial responsibility for the kids.
The Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission, established in 1889 in Kedgaon, Daund, describes itself as a Christ-centered home committed to empowering destitute women and children. The missionary’s operations are based on biblical principles, specifically Isaiah 61: 1 & 4, proclaiming a mission of healing and freedom.
In the present case, the two minor girls were allegedly forcefully converted by the missionary.