Journalist Subhi Vishwakarma spoke to Janjatiya girls who are victims of sexual assault, molestation, and perversion by the principal, padre, and a teacher of the missionary school. A surprise visit by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) brought the abuse to light. The school is located in a small village in the janjatiya (tribal) belt of MP’s Dindori District.
The accused principal who had been booked under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act was released by the police on account of administrative failure. Following the release of the accused, NCPCR (National Commission for Protection of Child Rights) Chief Priyank Kanoongo visited the school and met the victim girls and their parents. Seven FIRs were lodged against the culprits including government officials following his visit.
Priyank also revealed that they were yet to investigate the large number of documents pertaining to Baptism recovered from the school. “A First Information Report (number–00/2023) was registered in this case at the Mahila Thana Dindori on March 4 under sections 354, 354(a)(1)(i), 323, 34 with sections 7/ 8 of the POCSO Act and sections 75 and 82 of the Juvenile Justice Act.”, writes Subhi.
Dhanyakumari Vaish, Dindori CWC’s Chairperson, informed the police that officials from State CWC headquarters in Bhopal conducted a surprise inspection in Dindori on March 3. District Educational Officers (DEOs), Women & Child Development department members, and State Child Commission members accompanied CWC members.
The boys informed the inspection team about physical assault and the vulnerable conditions of the hostel while the girls revealed that Nansingh Yadav and Khemchandra sexually abused the girls. They further revealed that Church Padre (Father Sunny) took no action against the perpetrators despite repeated complaints. The police complaint also mentions Sister Savita and notes that she used to torture the minor girls in the hostel.
After the inspection, as many as eight minor girls were shifted to a centre located in the Dindori District on the night of March 3. Members of the ‘Gondwana Gantantra’ party led by Amar Singh Porte (Chairperson) and Radheshyam Kakodiya gathered outside the centre and threatened the CWC members as the party members wanted to take the girls back to the hostel. Moreover, despite the proof, the police were not ready to take action against the culprits.
Organiser journalist Subhi Vishwakarma reached Junwani village located in Dindori District. The district bordering Chhattisgarh is among the 250 most backward districts in the country. Priyank Kanoongo visited the town along with CWC members, Madhya Pradesh Child Commission chairperson Onkar Singh and member Megha Pawar on March 6.
Priyank met four girls, one of whom is a Divyang, and their family members near the Samnapur centre before visiting the hostel. The girls were sent to a school and hostel of their choice by the NCPCR Chief.
“This correspondent accessed the statements of the minor children on camera, where they told the CWC members that teacher Khemchandra used to press the breasts of the minor girls in class. He used to touch the part used for urination. He would ask them to bend down so that he can stand behind them.”, Subhi says in her report.
It must also be highlighted that the unhygienic practices of the school administration have made the students ill most of the time. They informed the inspection team that they found a dead cat in the drinking water tank.
The inspection team also discovered that the school was charging fees despite being a fully government-funded institution. Students are charged 1600 as hostel fees while the tuition charges are much higher. “We received a complaint from the minor girls that they were sexually abused by the school authorities. During the inspection, we also found records of conversion activities. After FIR in the said matter was registered the local political leaders issued threats to the CWC members. They even took the accused from the police custody with them”, the NCPCR chief told The Organiser.
The NCPCR chief found Baptism details from 1939 which prove that the school has been involved in religious conversion since 1939. “The visit opened a pandora box as the school was receiving government aid for four hostels whereas in reality they only had two. They were charging money from students, abusing them sexually, were converting them to Christianity, the condition of the hostels were vulnerable, and students were forced to have low-quality food and whatnot”, The Organiser quoted Priyank.
NCPCR has asked the administration to take action against Tribal Welfare Department (TWD) members who were involved in the matter. The district-level Block Education Officer (BEO) and the TWD’s BEO were suspended by the collector. The Town Inspector, in whose presence the accused Principal was released, was also suspended.
Gondwana Gantantra’s Amar Singh Porte has been booked under the POCSO and Juvenile Justice Acts for revealing the names of the minor girls to the media. Additionally, four FIRs were registered against the school and church authorities for illegally acquiring government grants. Hooligans who threatened CWC members at the centre were booked under IPC Section 354 (assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty).
On the day of the inspection team’s visit, both boys and girls were served a meal of dal, egg curry, and rice but chapatis weren’t provided to the students. Furthermore, Subhi Vishwakarma who visited the rooms and washrooms in the girl’s hostel found them to be in an ugly condition.
Locals, who were mostly converted Christians, gathered at the campus and attempted to stop inspection team officials. They also tried to confront the students as they believed the church and its authorities could do no wrong. “We are here as the girls have falsely framed a case against Father and the principal”, Subhi quotes a converted Christian woman named Chanda Kumari.
The woman also said that the church authorities told them about the case after Sunday prayers and they called for a protest against the commission. Incidentally, neither do her children study at the school nor do they reside in the hostel but she had come to protest against the girls who she accused of falsely framing the principal. She further added that the teachers were like ‘gods’ to them and she had full faith in them.
The school and church were founded by Father Pemence who was born and brought up in the Netherlands and arrived in Junwani in 1939. He started from a small room which grew into the present big campus. The possibility of a Christian conversion racket is ripe and the role of the Gondwana Gantantra Party also needs to be investigated. Moreover, while students are members of ‘Tribal Welfare Groups’ they mention Christianity in the religion column.
(Featured Image Source: The Organiser)