Adoptive parents nervous after raids of Missionaries of Charity homes

IMAGE: CNS photo/Saadia Azim

By Saadia Azim

RANCHI, India (CNS) — Theodore Kiro held 13-month-old
Navya on her return to his family after they were separated for a week. The crying
baby happily clung to Kiro, whom she knows as her grandfather.

Navya is one of the four babies whose fate
became entangled in the recent child trafficking scandal broke at Rachi’s Nirmal
Hriday (Tender Heart) home, run by the Missionaries of Charity. A five-member
district child welfare committee decided it was not fair for the foster mother
and the child to be separated for long and ruled they should be united
conditionally. The welfare committee asked the foster parents to take the child
before the committee every week and keep it informed of the child’s schedule.

“The child and the mother were in
trauma after separation, so the committee members decided compassionately to
unite them. But this status has been fixed for the next two months only,” said
Kiro, a local political leader using his clout to prepare legal papers for
adoption of the toddler. Navya was brought to their home in Ranchi just after
her birth and was reclaimed by the child welfare committee as one of the babies
who allegedly was sold illegally by an employee of the Missionaries of Charity home.

Though the parents confess that there was no
exchange of money yet, the officers are investigating the process of adoption
without proper paperwork. This makes Anuka Tigga, another adoptive mother of a 4-year-old,
jittery. She is scared for her child after the central government announced July
17 that all records and child care homes run by the Missionaries of Charity will
be inspected and adoption processes scrutinized.

“It is not that I have committed any
wrong. Rather, these happenings will adversely affect the well-being of my
child,” said Tigga.

The Indian Ministry for Women and Child Development
has directed the state governments that all child care institutions should be
registered and linked to the Central Adoption Resource Authority within a
month. Many mothers such as Tigga question the fate of children already living
with adoptive parents, for fear the government will say the process was not
followed and their children will be taken away.

In 2015, the Missionaries of Charity stopped
offering adoption of children because the Indian government introduced new rules making
it easier for single women and men to adopt. The government
rules said prospective adoptive parents must pay a fixed amount of 40,000
rupees ($580).

Police said Jharkhand state’s Child Welfare
Committee came to suspect the Ranchi home was involved in the illegal trading
of children after a couple complained they were not given a child, despite
paying 120,000 rupees (US$1,850) as an adoption fee. Sister Mary Prema Pierick,
superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, said in a July 17 statement
from Kolkata that the order was cooperating with authorities, and that when a
lay employee, Anima Indwar, admitted to the welfare committee in early July
that the baby had not been given to the couple, Indwar was handed over to police.

During recent raids at Nirmal Hriday and
Shishu Bhawan (Children’s Home) in Ranchi, 11 unwed pregnant women were shifted
to government homes and 22 children, including one child as young as a month
old, were sent to the Karuna Center, a government-run home. Navya’s family
complained that, after the separation, they found their child to be in a
miserable condition in the government facility.

Those children who remain in many of homes
run by Missionaries of Charity are destitute, orphans and unwanted children who
are nursed and cared for and prepared for adoption through the Central Adoption
Resource Authority system. The police are investigating now as to why the nuns continued
to keep children in their facility when they were no longer a registered body
for adoption. The norm has been that though the unwed mothers are provided with
nursing and support by the nuns, it is the responsibility of the guardians and
families who want to adopt to register with the child welfare committees. The
nuns and the Missionaries of Charity staff facilitate the process.

The Missionaries of Charity and other Christian
bodies are questioning the intention of the government in the recent actions
against the order. They say that, after the arrests of Indwar and Sister
Concelia, the nun in charge of accompanying mothers and babies to the welfare
committee, the Missionaries of Charity were not given a chance to be heard and
were not warned about the raids.

The Christian community and some politicians
are also questioning the role of the media, which widely published a video of
Indwar’s confession leaked by police.

Police have seized record books from the Missionaries
of Charity homes in Jharkhand state. Christian leaders say this is deliberate antagonism
by the state’s extremist Bharatiya Janata Party government, which has accused the
Missionaries of Charity of religious conversion in the pretext of social
service. Sister Concelia was sent to two weeks of judicial custody.

After the incident, Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal state,
where the religious order is based, called the actions against the Missionaries
of Charity a move to undermine the work of St. Teresa of Kolkata, who founded
the order.

former vice chairman of the Indian Minorities Commission, has asked for independent
judicial inquiry if need be to stop what he calls persecution of the Missionaries of Charity,
saying it is bringing disrepute to the whole organization.

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