A large number of parents gathered outside Snehalaya, a children’s home at Maloya, protesting against social welfare department officials and Chandigarh Police who had allegedly taken their children as part of Operation Muskaan on Friday.
The parents alleged that the officials had mistakenly taken their children to Snehalaya instead of taking missing children as part of the Operation Muskaan, and appealed to let their children free.
The parents were carrying school identity cards of their children, birth certificates, unique identification number cards and various other forms of documents to prove their children were not orphaned or abandoned.
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Snehalaya had sealed its entry and exit points, and called a team of police officials from Maloya police post to prevent parents from entering.
Few parents also claimed that their children had been staying in Snehalaya since Wednesday and were yet to be given back to them. When asked, Snehalaya officials claimed that above 50 children had been kept under their care for the last three days.
For the parents, the experience has been a nightmare. On Wednesday, Rani, a resident of Sector 34, had stepped outside her residence to fetch some water from a nearby water-tank to prepare lunch for her family. When she returned, there was nobody. She enquired from her neighbours about the whereabouts of her children and was informed that some officials from the social welfare department took her children with them to Snehalaya.
Since then, Rani has been outside Snehalaya appealing to the officials to get her children out but to no avail.
“I work as a domestic help and am the sole bread-earner. My husband died three years ago. My three kids Laxman (13), Kali (9) and Pooja (7) were taken by social welfare officials when they were playing outside our house. The officials claim that they had been left abandoned and hence, taken to the institute for shelter.”
“How can they be abandoned when I am still alive? They are all I have got,” said Rani.
Similarly, for Vinod, a resident of Sector 21, his son Krishna had gone to play outside while he was engaged as a daily-wage labourer elsewhere. When he returned, he could not locate his son. An eyewitness informed him that his son was plucking mangoes from a nearby tree and was taken by the social welfare department officials who had thought his son was an orphan. The only reply, Vinod claims, that Snehalaya officials give him is that his son will be returned in three days.
“On what grounds can anyone take your child and put him in a children’s welfare home? Their act only amounts to abduction,” Vinod said.
When contacted, Director, Social Welfare, S K Jain denied that the children had been taken without checking if they were orphaned or abandoned. “Most of these children who were taken to Snehalaya are those who have no next of kin, or had lost their way to their house. The police take their custody and bring them to us. They are then reunited with their parents or guardians,” he said.