Bhopal: Catholic Priest Held For Running Kids Home Illegally, Attempting Religious Conversions

Bhopal: Catholic Priest Held For Running Kids Home Illegally, Attempting Religious Conversions

Father Anil Mathew of the Congregation of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate was on January 4 charged with running the children's home unlawfully under Parwalia police station limits.

PTIUpdated: Monday, January 08, 2024, 08:12 PM IST
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Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): A Catholic priest has been arrested for allegedly running a children's home unlawfully and engaging in conversion attempts at the facility in Bhopal district, a police official said on Monday.

Father Anil Mathew of the Congregation of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate was on January 4 charged with running the children's home unlawfully under Parwalia police station limits. He was later also booked under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021, an anti-conversion law, the official said.

The police on Sunday arrested Father Mathew and produced him in a local court, which remanded him in 14-day judicial custody, he said.

The chairperson of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and a team of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) raided the children's home at Tara Savania village, about 20 km from the district headquarters.

It found that 26 girls out of the total 68 inmates were missing after going through the register of the facility. Subsequently, a first information report (FIR) was registered with the police by district programme officer Ramgopal Yadav against Father Mathew for allegedly running the facility illegally.

He was initially charged under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, police said.

"We had complained on January 4 itself that there was a violation of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021 at the facility. But after a probe, the police registered a case under the Act against Mathew on Sunday," Nivedita Sharma, a member of the SCPCR, told PTI.

Meanwhile, refuting the allegations, Father Johnshibu Pallipatt, vicar provincial of the Congregation of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, said the facility, called 'Aanchal', was not a children's home, but a hostel for girls.

The students at the facility were admitted with the written consent of their parents and family members, he said in a release.

As per directives of the state school education department, Aanchal has registered the girls' hostel online on the department's portal, the release stated.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mohan Yadav had on Saturday said 26 girls from a children's home who were alleged to have gone missing were safe and directed officials to take action against institutions operating illegally.

Yadav, in a post on X, wrote that the girls who went missing from the children's home were safe and had been identified.

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