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Sunday, November 27, 2022

TN: Christian hospice sealed in 2018 accused of torture, starving inmates & burying dead in vaults

A Christian hospice in Tamil Nadu, sealed four years ago for illegalities, is again in the news for starving and physically torturing elderly people. 69 elderly men and women with injuries and frail health have been rescued from the institution, and 61 have been admitted to government hospitals for treatment. The institute faced public outrage when it was discovered in 2018 that the dead inmates are buried in vaults inside the home. Allegations of organ harvest also surfaced, but the hospice started functioning again with the help of judiciary.

Videos of old men and women crying that they are not provided food and are physically abused in a Christian home have gone viral on social media. Reports say that villagers heard cries of the elderly and complained to the district collector. Upon inspection, officials found that the inmates were not being provided food and were physically and verbally tortured.

A 77-year-old man says that the woman in-charge of the hospice beat him on his face using a ladle and used abusive language to harass him. He claimed that 12 people died of starvation in the last two months after they were beaten and left in a corner. Inmates told the officials they wanted to go home as they could not bear the abuse and torture.

Sealed in 2018 for abuse

The institution in question, St Joseph’s Hospice, was sealed in 2018 after similar accusations were raised. An old woman crying for help was saved by passersby in 2018. It turned out that she ran away from her house and the police sent her to St Joseph Hospice’s branch in Tambaram, Chennai. She saw two corpses on arrival and was forced to live in the hospice for two days despite requesting to be sent home. Later she was transported to the branch in Paleswaram near Kancheepuram along with a corpse.

Her rescue literally brought skeletons tumbling out of the closet. Paleswaram villagers complained that despite several complaints against the hospice, no action was taken against it. They alleged that elderly people are tortured in the hospice and buried there once they die. They feared it might pollute the environment, especially water, as the hospice uses concrete vaults to bury the dead. Inspections were done, shocking details about the hospice emerged and all the branches were sealed. Some rescued inmates claimed they were undergoing treatment in government hospitals and were sent to the hospice without their agreement.

Back to Abuse With Church Support

Meanwhile, the Catholic church stood rock solid behind Fr. Thomas, who founded the hospices. A petition by a group of priests submitted to the Kanchipuram collector said that they see the crackdown against St. Joseph’s Hospice as actions against Christianity and Christian services. A detailed article on the illegalities and stunning facts about the St Joseph’s hospices can be read here. Locals raised organ and bone harvest allegations against the hospices. But that angle was never investigated.

Now, after 4 years, one of the inmates has claimed on air that 12 people were starved to death in 2 months. The hospices are run with funds collected through Light for the Blind- India, an FCRA NGO. The NGO continues to hold the FCRA license despite the 2018 incident.

They have built a new 3-storey building in the Vellore hospice and the recently rescued 69 elderly people were locked up on the uppermost floor. In 2018, when the Paleswaram hospice was in the news, all other hospices run by Fr. Thomas were inspected and sealed. Then it was found that the Vellore hospice, which is now in news didn’t have a license and was functioning illegally. But the priest claimed it was due to corrupt officials and openly challenged the government to take over his institutions as he felt confident that a corrupt state could not provide such service.

Similar Incidents in the Recent Past

In 2018, except BJP, no other political party cared or talked about the issue. The same would continue now as the Dravidian parties have a mutual understanding with the church. It should be noted that a similar incident happened in Coimbatore after DMK assumed power. Christian NGOs abducted people standing on the road in the name of rescuing and rehabilitating beggars and locked them up in a ‘home’ and physically abused. The kidnapped people were rescued after locals got suspicious and complained to the authorities. No action was taken against the NGOs despite clear testimonies from the affected.

Recently, a Christian school in Chennai was found converting Hindu girls. When child rights bodies sought the state government authorities to take action against the school, the latter didn’t cooperate. The Chairman of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had to write to the Chief Secretary and DGP seeking cooperation in rescuing the girls and taking action against the school. But the DMK government came in support of the school and refused to act against it.

It sent a team of its own for inspection and claimed that no such illegal activities were happening there. The Minister of the Department of Social Justice and Welfare under which these things come, Geeta Jeevan, is a Christian. We leave it to the readers to surmise what might transpire in the case of St Joseph’s Hospices

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