The Missionaries of Charity, an organisation founded by Mother Teresa, has been charged with “hurting Hindu religious sentiments” and “luring towards Christianity young girls” at a shelter home run by the Makarpura police in Gujarat’s Vadodara.
On the basis of a complaint by District Social Defence Officer Mayank Trivedi, a FIR was filed at Makarpura police station on Sunday under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003. On December 9, he and the district’s Chairman of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) visited to the Makarpura Home for Girls.
According to the FIR, during his visit Trivedi allegedly found that the girls were being ‘forced’ to read Christian religious texts and participate in Christian prayers with the intention of “steering them into Christianity”. “Between February 10, 2021 and December 9, 2021, the institution has been involved in activities to hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus intentionally and with bitterness (towards Hindu religion). The girls inside the Home are being lured to adopt Christianity by making them wear the cross around their neck and also placing the Bible on the table of the storeroom used by the girls, in order to compel them to read the bible, It is an attempted crime to force religious conversion upon the girls,” the FIR states.
Despite the fact that the organization’s management rejected any forced conversion, the police have launched an investigation. “We are not involved in any religious conversion activity,” a Missionaries of Charity spokesperson said. We have a total of 24 girls at the house. These girls live with us and follow our practises because they see us praying and living in the same way. We haven’t forced anyone to convert or marry into the Christian faith.”
Assistant Commissioner of Police S B Kumavat said the district collector had issued instructions to book a case against the organisation after a committee probed into the allegations. “The district collector had formed a committee after the complaint from the Child Welfare Committee. A team including members of several departments probed into the allegations, following which, a complaint has been filed. The police will probe into it,” the ACP said.
Officials said that according to the CWC’s complaint, the organisation had allegedly forced a girl of Hindu origin to marry into a Christian family as per Christian traditions. The complaint also alleged that the girls are served non-vegetarian food, despite being Hindus and that they are made to wear a cross and read the bible in order to “steer them and encourage them” to embrace Christianity against their will.
The institution has been charged under IPC sections 295(A) (deliberate, malicious acts to outrage feelings of any class by insulting their religious beliefs), 298 (deliberately uttering words to wound a person’s religious feelings), and section 3 of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, which prohibits forcible conversions and carries a three-year prison sentence and a fine of Rs 50,000. If a minor is forcibly converted (section 4), the offender faces up to four years in prison and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.