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Bhopal: Catholic priest arrested for illegal children’s home and conversion attempts

January 10, 2024

A Catholic priest, Father Anil Mathew of the Congregation of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, was apprehended on January 4 on charges of operating an illegal children’s home and attempting religious conversions in Bhopal district. The arrest included allegations under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021, an anti-conversion law. Father Mathew was taken into custody on Sunday and presented before a local court, which remanded him in 14-day judicial custody.

The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson, along with a team from the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), conducted a raid at the children’s home in Tara Savania village, approximately 20 km from the district headquarters. The inspection revealed that 26 girls out of the total 68 inmates were missing, prompting the filing of a First Information Report (FIR) against Father Mathew by district program officer Ramgopal Yadav for alleged illegal operation of the facility. Initially, charges were filed under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

Nivedita Sharma, a member of the SCPCR, stated that a complaint on January 4 highlighted a violation of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021, leading to its inclusion in the case against Father Mathew on Sunday.

In response, Father Johnshibu Pallipatt, vicar provincial of the Congregation of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, refuted the allegations, asserting that the facility named ‘Aanchal’ was a hostel, not a children’s home. He clarified that students were admitted with written consent from parents and registered online as a girls’ hostel in compliance with the state school education department’s directives.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mohan Yadav confirmed the safety of the 26 missing girls and directed action against illegally operating institutions. His social media post assured that the missing girls had been located and identified.

Source: PTI

Also read: Universalising Jesus Christ

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