Wow….Gurukul, Balak Ashram ….and Jesus…..!!!

published on June 20, 2010

‘Jesus the only hope, they said’

Yerawada orphanage caught in adoption scandal also forced kids to convert, say members of government-convened panel

A Fresh controversy has wrapped itself around the Gurukul Godavari Balak Ashram in Yerawada. Forced conversion to Christianity is the latest allegation, and it comes within days of the orphanage head’s arrest for hiding the HIV positive status of an infant adopted by a Mumbai woman.

The orphanage-cum-adoption centre was also said to lack a licence, and the Mumbai woman, Anita Arun Yadav, claimed she had paid Rs 1 lakh to the orphanage before she was last year given a boy. The boy died within a few months.

As the case involved allegations of money changing hands for a baby, the District Anti-Human Trafficking Committee got on to the case and talked to the children from the orphanage.

Members of the committee, which is convened by the Women and Child Welfare Department of the state government, said while talking to the children they found they were forced to convert.

“We found religion has been instilled in their minds very strongly,” said committee member Meena Kurlekar, who represents NGO Vanchit Vikas. “They have been brainwashed that Jesus is their only saviour and he will come to their rescue.”

Besides police officers, the anti-trafficking committee includes four members of NGOs appointed by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).

The CWC on Friday had rescued 51 children from the Gurukul Godavari Balak Ashram and sent them to children’s homes in Nana Peth and Shivajinagar.

The move had followed the arrest of orphanage head Mathew Rayappa Yanmal by the police following a complaint by Yadav at the Yerawada police station.

Anti-trafficking committee members said a majority of the children, who were between four to 17 years of age, said they were “forcefully converted to Christianity” by Yanmal, who used to say, “Jesus is the only saviour.”

Anuradha Sahasrabuddhe, director of a child helpline and a anti-trafficking committee member, said most children at the orphanage had been converted to Christianity. “The children were brought to the ashram from several places in Maharashtra, like Amravati, Solapur, Thane, Dapodi, Bopodi and Jalna,” said Sahasrabuddhe. “And one of the older girls was from Varanasi.”

Investigations by the anti-trafficking committee revealed that parents were forced to sign an affidavit saying their children were destitute. “We suspect the purpose of the affidavit could be the facilitation of the adoption process,” said Sahasrabuddhe. “We are probing whether the authorities forced single parents to declare their children destitute.”

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