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CM Mamata Banerjee supports Missionaries of Charity, lashes out at BJP

On July 5, the Jharkhand Police arrested a nun and an employee of a Ranchi-based organisation run by the Missionaries of Charity on charges of selling a baby allegedly against an amount of Rs 1.2 lakh.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2018 19:51 IST
Avijit Ghosal and Vishal Kant
Avijit Ghosal and Vishal Kant
Hindustan Times, Kolkata and Ranchi
Mamata Banerjee,Missionaries of Charity,BJP
Police stand outside the premises of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. A staff member and a nun were arrested on child trafficking charges in Ranchi, Jharkhand. (AFP)

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday came out in support of the Missionaries of Charity (MC), now in the eye of a storm over the alleged involvement of one of its nuns in Ranchi in the sale of a baby boy, and lashed out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the Jharkhand government ordered a probe into all children’s homes in the state.

Though she did not mention the Jharkhand government by name, it was obvious that her remarks were targeted at the Raghubar Das administration for its steps against the charity founded by Mother Teresa.

“The Missionaries of Charity was set up by Mother Teresa and is famous all over the world. If some individuals have done something wrong, you cannot hold the entire organisation to be responsible,” Banerjee told a press conference in the north Bengal city of Siliguri.

BJP state unit president Dilip Ghosh refused to react without going into the details of what Banerjee said. “However, there must be something wrong since the state (Jharkhand) government proceeded against the Missionaries of Charity there,” he remarked.

Earlier in the day, Banerjee had tweeted that attempts were being made to malign the MC by targeting the sisters. “…#BJP want to spare no one. Highly condemnable…” she tweeted.

On July 5, the Jharkhand Police arrested a nun and an employee of a Ranchi-based organisation run by the Missionaries of Charity on charges of selling a baby allegedly for Rs 1.2 lakh.

The arrest was made on the basis of a complaint by the Ranchi unit of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). Following the allegations, the Raghubar Das government has ordered an inquiry into all children’s homes including Nirmal Hriday run by the MC in Jharkhand.

After the allegation of baby sale racket in Jhakhand, the spokesperson for MC in Kolkata said they had started an internal probe to ascertain what actually happened in the state.

The Bengal chief minister is an admirer of Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity.

In September 2016, Banerjee led a 12-member delegation to the Vatican as a guest of MC to attend the canonisation ceremony of Mother Teresa.

Also in Kolkata on Thursday, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the law should be allowed to take its own course in the case. There should not be any harassment of the nuns or prosecution before the charge is proved, he added.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) on Thursday threw its weight behind MC in the baby selling row, saying it seems ‘some people’ are trying to frame the trust founded by Mother Teresa.

Speaking to the media in Ranchi, CBCI secretary general Theodore Mascarenhas said while the conduct of Anima Indwar was condemnable, allegations against the Charity as a whole are false and raises doubts about the motives behind it.

Mascarenhas also alleged that rule of law was not being followed in the case of sister Koshleniea, in-charge of Nirmal Hriday, who has also been arrested in connection with the case last week.

“Anima Indwar was a worker. She has been accused of selling a kid for money. It is a major issue. But I would like to clarify that the allegations against Mother Teresa congregation are false and they knew nothing about the case. Their records are well maintained and the CWC has checked it. We have seen media reports of 280 kids missing, which is false and misleading,” said Mascarenhas.

On reports of the state police recommending a CBI probe in the foreign funding of MC, Mascarenhas said the institution was not afraid of any probe as their ‘conscience is straight’ and the ‘books are clean’.

On police’s claim that the sister gave her statement in the presence of CWC members, Mascarenhas questioned the ‘legal standing’ of the CWC, saying, “There needs to be probe in the functioning of the CWC as well.”

Additional director general of Jharkhand Police RK Mallick, however, denied Mascarenhas’ allegations.

“The allegations are unfounded and without any basis. There is no question of any pressure as the case has been filed on the basis of a complaint by the CWC, which alleged that four kids were sold and it has statements of Anima Indwar and parents of the kids who were sold. They are enough evidence for action against sister Koshleniea who was arrested and sent into judicial custody,” he said.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Jul 12, 2018 15:51 IST