April 7, 2021 8:43:52 am
A recent study by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on the educational status of the children of women prisoners has flagged instances of the Bible being taught to those who are not Christian.
It cites the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, to raise this as an issue. “The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 defined these children as ‘Children in need of Care and Protection’ and makes it binding on the State machinery to ensure that these children do not fall prey to institutions which not only compromises with their safety and security but denies them the right to preserve identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognised by the law without unlawful interference (UNCRC),” the report states.
The report is based on 144 responses received from women prisoners, their children, heads of children’s homes and hostels, heads of schools and prison officials. The study covered eight prisons meant for women in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra.
Under the section that lists out problems identified by the NCPCR team during their visit to the jails, the report points out the example of a prison for convicted women in Lucknow that has permitted an NGO to teach the Bible to the children living there.
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In another example, the report speaks of a surprise visit to a children’s home in Ghaziabad where children of women prisoners stay. At the Asha Deep Foundation, the report states, it was found that children were being taught religious teachings of a particular religion other than one practiced by the children. “The Commission conducted a surprise visit and retrieved around 26 Bibles from the lockers and rooms of the non-Christian children.”
Blaming the authorities, the report said, “Thus, it is a gross negligence on the part of state machinery who fail to bear the responsibility towards these children, eventually provide access to these vulnerable children and further perpetuate their vested interests.”
However, Reverend H K Chetty, a board member of the Asha Deep Foundation, told The Indian Express, “Yes, they conducted a visit about two years ago. The 26 Bibles they claim they found in the lockers and rooms of children were actually collected from the lockers and rooms of our staff. If we were forcibly teaching the Bible to our children then they should have found one with all of them. Why only 26? Also, did they interact with the children or ask them if we were teaching them about Christianity? No. Asha Deep Foundation has been working with children since 1991. We haven’t forced any children to accept a particular religion.”
Among other problems flagged by the study was the irregular meetings that children living in homes and hostels have with their mothers in jail. “…60 per cent of women prisoners replied that the visits conducted between their children are often irregular because the children home/hostels where they are admitted are far from the place where they are currently lodged and often admitted to CCIs in different city… While 17 per cent prisoners said that their children visit them once in three months; 10 per cent stated that children visit them monthly and 13 per cent women said that they have never met their children,” the report states.
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