The never-orphaned children of Dera Sacha Sauda orphanage
Many followers ‘surrendered’ their kids; 17 of 34 boys shifted to Karnal orphanage reunited with their families.Updated: Sep 05, 2017 12:01 IST
Most of the children lodged in the orphanage of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda are not orphans but were “surrendered” by their parents who were followers of the now-jailed sect head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
Of the 34 boys shifted to a Karnal orphanage, 17 have been reunited with their families dispersed in several Haryana districts by members of the child welfare committee (CWC), bringing to the fore a serious violation of the Juvenile Justice Act. It has also turned the spotlight on poor working of the Sirsa child welfare committee as it failed to verify where these so-called orphans were coming from.
The CWC officials said that these children were not ready to listen anything against the dera head and were not disclosing the identity of their parents claiming ‘Pitaji’ was both their father and mother.
Karnal CWC president Surender Mann, who spent several hours counselling these children to persuade them to tell about their families, said, “Even their names and identity have been changed. The boys said they were not allowed to meet their parents again and they could only get a glimpse of them during sermons by the dera head.”
“After the dera head’s arrest, they were told that everything will be fine in a few days and they will be brought back to the sect’s orphanage,” he said. “Two couples came to us and took their children saying they had surrendered them for the service of the dera,” another CWC member said. The CWC officials said most of these children were unwilling to go back to their parents and 17 agreed to share details of their families after long counselling sessions. “One of the children even refused to meet his sister,” he said.
To ascertain the identity of the families of the rest of the children, the Karnal CWC has written to the authorities in Sirsa seeking for their identity proofs. He said three youths who are aged above 18 have been living in the dera since childhood and they know many wrongdoings that were going on at the dera. A boy disclosed that there was a court inside the dera and everybody had to obey its orders, the official said.
“We visited the dera every month for inspection but we were not allowed to meet these children. The management said these children were surrendered by their parents. This is also a violation and we had taken up the issue with the authorities several times,” said a Sirsa CWC member on condition of anonymity.
“Even the CWC sent three orphans to the dera orphanage as it has good schools and food facilities,” the member said.
Child rights activist Anant Kumar Asthana said, “This shows how a criminal was preparing his followers for future. The kids’ parents are equally responsible as they think their wards are their property.”