MUMBAI, India – India’s central government has ordered all child care homes run by the Missionaries of Charity to be inspected after several children were allegedly sold at a home for unwed mothers run by the order, which was founded by St. Teresa of Kolkata, better known as Mother Teresa.
Two women affiliated with the order, one a religious sister and the other a lay employee, were arrested earlier this month in the Indian state of Jharkhand, and charged with trying to sell a baby for adoption.
The police released a video of the nun confessing to selling three babies and giving a fourth away free for adoption. The authorities said three of the babies have been recovered.
Maneka Gandhi, India’s Women and Child Development Minister, has asked every state government to make sure all child care institutions are registered with the ministry’s Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) within a month.
A statement by Sister Mary Prema Pierick, the head of the Missionaries of Charity, said the order is “saddened and grieved” by the events.
“Even while we place our full trust in the Judicial process that is underway, we wish to express regret and sorrow for what happened and desire to express in unequivocal terms our condemnation of individual actions which have nothing to do with the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity,” Prema said.
The nun said the Missionaries of Charity are cooperating with the investigations and “are open to any free, fair and just inquiry.”
She noted that the accused had informed the home for unwed mothers in Ranchi that they were turning the children over to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), a government office existing in every district of India.
(The Missionaries of Charity had stopped handling adoptions themselves in 2015, instead turning over the children for the government to arrange future care.)
However, the staff had no way to know the children had not been handed over, since the committee did not usually notify the home when a transfer took place.
Prema said after one of the accused, laywoman Anima Indwar, admitted she had not turned the child over, she was arrested on July 3. Sister Concelia was arrested the next day.
The head of the Missionaries of Charity said on the evening of July 4 things took a bad turn, when officials carried away the women living at the home, subjecting them “to utmost humiliation and public embarrassment by the officials as they were carried in full view of the media.”
“For reasons unknown, our Shishu Bhawan Home at Hinoo was raided by CWC with a police force consisting of about 7 members on July 06, 2018. 22 children lodged in the said home were carried away by CWC, which included a one-month-old baby,” Prema said.
“The records and registers of this Home too were carried away by the officials without providing the home a receipt of such seizure. It is distressing that CWC has meted out such treatment to a Home which its officials themselves had described as having an ‘excellent environment for the care of children’ only about two weeks before,” she continued.
Last week, the head of government of the Indian state of West Bengal – the location of Kolkata, where the Missionaries of Charity are headquartered – accused the central government of a “malicious” campaign to “malign” the order.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said they are being targeted by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is affiliated with a Hindu nationalist group. The BJP also runs the state government in Jharkhand.