Now, Raje govt targets missionary schools under Juvenile Justice Act
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje
A questionable ruling by a single judge bench of the Rajasthan HC expands the definition of the child-in-need of care under JJ Act and allows CWC to inspect school hostels and ‘rescue’ the children
“She came here when she was just seven years old. Now she is in class XI. But a month ago the Child Welfare Committee, Kota, took her away and would not tell me where she is,” says Jyoti’s brother Kallu Bhairava who produces a ration card that carries the names of both brother and sister.
Their parents died of TB and they were initially looked after by Missionaries of Charity. They advised him to send Jyoti to Emmanuel Mission in Kota (Rajasthan). “It was not possible for me to look after her. It is not safe for her where I live. But every vacation we could meet and whenever she would have time, she would come to meet me,” says Bhairava.
A month ago, on May 5, confirm sources in Emmanuel Mission, a CWC team led by chairperson Harish Gurubakshani had arrived, asked for Jyoti and took her away. No reason was given, no explanation was sought, and no notice was given.
The team returned on May 19 and 72 children, all of them minors, were taken away on a bus from the Jeevan Asha Hostel at Raipura. Out of the 72, 17 were girls and all of them have been put in the Nari Niketan along with Jyoti, they came to know. Nari Niketan is a home for abandoned and delinquent women. They have no information of the boys, four of whom have run away. They haven’t been traced yet.
All of them were among 611 students enrolled in the school and staying in the hostel. Most of them had left for home for the summer vacation. Hailing from disadvantaged and poor families, guardians of the children would turn up as and when they managed to save some money and could take leave from work.
Five guardians had turned up on May 19 to take their wards home. But the Child Welfare Committee refused to recognise them. Maria Demari had arrived to escort her eight-year-old daughter Evania home. “But when I went to CWC with the documents, they refused to acknowledge that she is my daughter. I was told that because I am a Christian, my daughter wouldn’t be given back to me. They also asked us to convert to Hinduism,” says Demari who works as domestic help while her husband works in a tea plantation in Assam.
Kallu Bhairava filed a Habeas Corpus petition in the High Court of Rajasthan on May 8. The court heard it on May 27 and extended the date to June 4. The case has been postponed to July.
Director of HEEAL (Health, Education, Environment & Agricultural Lifestyle) project at the Emmanuel Mission Susan Raj informs that the Children Welfare Committee, Kota, had obtained an order from the High Court on May 9 that held that all residential schools with children below 18 come under the purview of the Juvenile Justice Act, which allows CWC to inspect and ‘rescue’ the children.
“By that token all coaching centres in Kota and other residential schools in Rajasthan should be inspected and possibly shut,” says Raj. One of the coaching institutes in Kota has reported as many as 65 suicides by children over the years but the CWC to the best of their knowledge has not sent them even a notice, he added, which makes the intention of the CWC suspect.
“One of our students, Padmashri Limba Ram is an Olympian and another student, Thang Boi is an SDM in Manipur,” points out the activist.
Director of HEEAL (Health, Education, Environment & Agricultural Lifestyle) project at the Emmanuel Mission Susan Raj informs that the Children Welfare Committee, Kota, had obtained an order from the High Court on May 9 that held that all residential schools with children below 18 come under the purview of the Juvenile Justice Act, which allows CWC to inspect and ‘rescue’ the children
The CWC maintains that the children were in danger on the premises of Emmanuel Mission, that there were suspicions raised about trafficking and forceful religious conversion.
“Had that been true, even Gurubakshani, the chairperson of the CWC-Kota, would have been a Christian by now since he studied in St. John’s Senior Secondary School in Kota,” retorts a spokesperson of the Mission.
A single judge bench of the Rajasthan High Court ruled on May 9: “As held by the Supreme Court, the definition of child-in-need of care and protection is not exhaustive but is only inclusive thus viewed, all children below the age of 18 years would be those who need care and protection. It would thus include all hostels where children are residing as orphans in care…”. The judge Sanjeev Prakash Sharma had ruled it in the Rajasthan state’s case against Emmanuel Mission.
But the children in the Emmanuel Mission, the mission spokesmen point out, are not orphans; and till this particular ruling, no residential school in Rajasthan was required to be registered under the Juvenile Justice Act.
But, this is not new. In a move coordinated with the state government, on January 15, 2018, the Sangh Parivar-affiliated Gurubakshani marched into the premises of Emmanuel Mission society armed with a January 11, 2018, High Court order to raid them. He had come along with the police and members of the Child Helpline, in case there were children who had to be ‘rescued’. Not so surprisingly, the order had never reached the society. They were being raided because the CWC had concluded that Emmanuel Mission was still running an orphanage, which they had closed down in 2016, based on an un-updated website of the Mission.
In the hope of getting a patient hearing from the National Human Rights Commission in the Capital, the Emmanuel Mission officials and guardians of the boys who had gone missing had come to New Delhi, only to be let down. They were asked to approach the State Human Right Commission as the case would fall under their purview
According to sources, the raid was conducted with an intention to check the documents of the Society to see if their management could be booked under the Human Trafficking law as that would be a non-bailable offence.
However, Gurubakshani was adamant that he was only implementing the Rajasthan High court order of May 9 and kept insisting that the reporter read the order. “If the court passes an order, I will implement it. It is for children,” he asserted. When he was asked if other hostels in Kota and Rajasthan were raided, Gurubakshani said, “I do not have an answer to your question. People can interpret it any way they want. But, this case is only pertaining to Emmanuel Mission.”
In the hope of getting a patient hearing from the National Human Rights Commission in the Capital, the Emmanuel Mission officials and guardians of the boys who had gone missing had come to New Delhi, only to be let down. The NHRC chief Rajesh Kishore did not meet them, only the assistant registrar KK Shrivastava met them. He asked them to approach the State Human Right Commission as the case would fall under their purview. This is despite the NHRC taking suo motu cognizance of several human rights violations around the country.
source: National Herald India
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