In A Rare Case, Child Commission Directs Action Against District Magistrate In A Case Of Illegal Christian Conversion of Minors

In A Rare Case, Child Commission Directs Action Against District Magistrate In A Case Of Illegal Christian Conversion of MinorsPicture for representation
Snapshot
  • The national child commission has written to the chief secretary of the government of Madhya Pradesh to take action against the district magistrate of Sagar

In a rare such case, the national child commission has written to the government of Madhya Pradesh (MP) to take action against a district magistrate (DM) in an incident pertaining to illegal Christian conversion of minor children.

The commission had taken cognisance of a news report in July which said that minor children kept in a private hostel in Sagar district were being forced to worship a particular deity. The commission then directed the DM of Sagar to provide information in the matter, but received no reply despite several reminders.

In a recent letter addressed to the chief secretary of the MP government, the commission said that the DM’s conduct in the case is tantamount to suppressing information. It directed the government to take action against the DM for failing to discharge his duties.

The case:

In July, 2020, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) took cognisance of a news report published in Patrika which said that nine girls were rescued from Euphrasia Bhawan Hostel in Bina town by the Sagar district administration. Various irregularities were reported from the hostel including the allegation that children were being forced to worship a particular deity. Child Welfare Committee (CWC) of Vidisha district was quoted in the report as saying that the children seemed to have been illegally kept in the hostel and it seems to be a case of religious conversion.

One of the statements made by a child to the CWC was, “…yahan puja bhi nai karayi jaati thi naa hi mandir hai. Madal Christian prayer karati thi aur gale mein bhi kuch pehenti thi…(the place had no temple, but we were made to recite Christian players. Madam would wear something around her neck too).”

(As the CWC of Sagar district was not operational that time, the CWC of Vidisha district had taken statements of the children).

The commission sent a notice to the Sagar DM on 14 July to provide an action taken report (ATR) in the matter. It sent several reminders to the DM, but received no reply. The commission subsequently issued summons on 17 August, directing the DM to provide information on 13 points. These included,

What action was initiated by the administration on the basis of statements of the children to the CWC

Whether an FIR under sections 42, 75, 82 of Juvenile Justice Act was registered

Why was this hostel open when all schools and coaching were closed on the orders of the government citing pandemic

How many hostels are being run by the organisation running Euphrasia Bhawan hostel in Madhya Pradesh, and what is their source of funding

The commission received no reply on its queries. On 15 September, it held a hearing with some officials from Sagar administration. The officials told the NCPCR that they had completed their inquiry in the matter and there was no further information which could be provided to the commission. The officials included sub-divisional police officer of Bina, district probation officer (DPO) and Assistant District Prosecution Officer (APO) of Sagar.

The commission concluded that the Sagar DM had simply failed to provide information which was tantamount to suppressing information. It also observed that the DM had not conducted its inquiry as per the desired protocols.

Commission seeks action against DM

On 27 November, the commission wrote to Iqbal Singh Bains, chief secretary of government of MP, directing him to take action against the DM of Sagar for failing to discharge his duties.

The letter said, “A senior functionary in the State machinery and occupying the key post in the district, DM Sagar, did not bother to either take into consideration the specific statements of the minors, and made no attempt to register an FIR in the matter under the provisions of Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam, 1968.”

“This is serious violation on the part of the DM, Sagar, since the statements of minor are on record and some of the minors belong to the Scheduled Caste and Tribe,” the letter further said.

The first and the last page of the letter by the commission to the MP government 
The first and the last page of the letter by the commission to the MP government 

The commission is yet to hear from the MP government in the case.

Priyank Kanoongo, chairperson of the NCPCR, told Swarajya that forcibly changing the religious identity of children is a violation of the United Nation‘s convention of child rights as well as the Constitution of India. “There are laws to check this. Any public servant not adhering to the laws is failing to discharge his public duties,” said Kanoongo.

He called the commission’s move to direct action against the DM as a “rare” move.

Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.

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