The Missionaries of Charity, an organisation founded by Mother Teresa, has been booked under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, for allegedly “hurting Hindu religious sentiments” and “luring towards Christianity young girls” in a shelter home it runs in Vadodara city. The organisation has rejected the charge.
The FIR lodged at Makarpura police station Sunday is based on a complaint from District Social Defence Officer Mayank Trivedi who, along with the Chairman of the Child Welfare Committee of the district, visited the Home for Girls run by the Missionaries of Charity in Makarpura area on December 9.
The FIR states that during his visit, Trivedi found that girls at the home were being “forced” to read Christian religious texts and participate in prayers of Christian faith, 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… The girls inside the Home for Girls 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.
While the management of the Missionaries of Charity denied any forceful conversion, police have initiated a probe after receiving the complaint.
A spokesperson for the Missionaries of Charity said, “We are not involved in any religious conversion activity… We have 24 girls in the home. These girls live with us and they follow our practice as they see us doing the same when we pray and live. We have not converted anyone or forced anyone to marry into Christian faith.”
Officials said that according to the complaint by the Child Welfare Committee, the organisation had forced a Hindu girl to marry into a Christian family as per Christian traditions. The complaint also alleged that the girls living in the shelter home had been served non-vegetarian food despite being Hindus.
Assistant Commissioner of Police SB Kumavat said the District Collector had issued instructions to book a case against the organisation after a committee probed the allegations made by Trivedi.
“The District Collector had formed a committee after the complaint from the Child Welfare Committee. A team of members of several departments probed the allegation, following which a complaint has been filed. Police will probe the allegations and gather evidence to see if the contentions are true,” Kumavat said.
Vadodara Commissioner of Police Shamsher Singh told The Indian Express that police had begun a probe into the alleged conversion of a woman from Punjab.
“We have begun a probe today based on the complaint. There has been one case of a woman from Punjab being converted by the Missionaries of Charity, after she lived in the home, which the committee has reported… There are exhaustive guidelines in place for shelter homes, which they must follow. We will examine the case on the basic FIR,” Singh said.
The organisation has been booked under IPC sections for deliberate and malicious acts to outrage feelings of any class by insulting its religious beliefs (295 A), deliberately uttering words to wound the religious feelings of a person (298) as well as the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, which provides for prohibition of forcible conversion (Section 3) and punishment for forcible conversion with a term of three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50,000 and, in case of a minor being the ‘victim of forceful conversion’, imprisonment of four years and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh (Section 4).