Tribune News Service
Ludhiana, September 1
The Jharkhand police on Saturday claimed that most of the children residing at Packiam Mercy Cross Trust, an illegal shelter home at Phullawal here, were not Christian, but followers of Sarnaism, a tribal religion.
The fact came to the fore after the cops questioned some of the children traced by them. Sarna followers worship nature, represented by trees. Shelter home owner Satyanandra Parkash Musa (60) had claimed that all children were from a Christian background.
Amar Kumar Pandey, Sadar Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO), Chaibasa, told The Tribune over the phone from Jharkhand, “Over 70 per cent of the children staying at the Ludhiana shelter home were believers of Sarna. Their conversion was done by Musa. We have sufficient evidence to prove this.”
So far, 24 missing children and their parents have been traced by the police and statements of 15 have been recorded.
“Twenty children from Jharkhand were brought by a former student of Musa, Junool Longa (24), while the remaining had come through missionaries and churches. Once we identify these missionaries, they will also be booked,” said Pandey.
Longa had convinced the parents by promising better future and living conditions for their wards, but they were not aware of conversions, he said.
Musa and working chairman of Council of Ludhiana churches K Koshy had denied the conversion charge, but accepted that they did not renew the shelter home’s registration.
What children say
- They were being taught prayers and bible lessons everyday irrespective of their religion.
- They were staying in three halls inside the shelter home. Older children used to cook food.
- They all were studying at Agapya Public school (belonging to a missionary) at Shaheed Karnail Singh Nagar.
- Students were allotted classes according to their heights.
- Parents were unaware of these activities and were not allowed to meet the children frequently.
What neighbours say
People living near the shelter home said no child was allowed to play outside the home. They were kept in locked premises. Sometimes, people used to visit the home in big cars. No knowledge about conversions.
Norms for shelter homes
- To register a shelter home, one has to apply to the district child protection officer, which sends the case to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).
- The CWC checks if the home has enough space for children, playground, medical facilities, hygienic kitchen, bathroom, spacious bedding, activity and recreation rooms, source of funds, number of people managing the home, number of children and their details.
- Once the CWC is satisfied, it sends the file to the Director, Social Security, Chandigarh, for approval.
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