Madhya Pradesh High Court releases detained Christian children to parents

The parents said they were concerned about the safety of their wards and that despite requests the police did not release them.The children and parents were reunited outside the Madhya Pradesh High Court premises on Monday.
A week after seven Christian children were made to deboard a train at the railway station here by Hindu Dharm Jagran Manch activists, the Madhya Pradesh High Court on Oct 30 handed over the children to their parents.

A habeas corpus petition had been filed before the Indore bench by the parents who contended that the children were going to Mumbai to attend a Bible-reading session with their consent but were illegally detained and kept at a secret location.

On October 23, Anita Joseph, a resident of Christian Quarters, was to board Avantika Express with the seven children, who live near her house, and her 19-year-old old daughter to Mumbai.

Before the train started, some right-wing activists reached the station and accused her and one Amrit Kumar Matera, who had come to drop off the children, of taking the children forcibly to Mumbai and later to Kerala for conversion, and beat them up.

Based on a complaint by activists of the Jagran Manch, the Railway police booked Anita and Amrit for alleged kidnapping and under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, and sent the children to a shelter. Sophie, Anita’s daughter, was asked to go home because she is an adult. The two were remanded in police custody. A day later, Amrit was booked under POCSO, allegedly under pressure from the activists.

When the habeas corpus case came up on Monday, the bench of Justices S C Sharma and Alok Verma asked the prosecution to produce the children. The parents said they were concerned about the safety of their wards and that despite requests the police did not release them.

They alleged that the sequence of events was politically motivated. “The constitutional rights of the petitioners have been imperiled by illegal detention of their children without any reason,” the petition said.

Dennis Micheal, who filed the petition on behalf of the parents, said he was severely beaten when he reached the police station after hearing the news. He said the activists beat and abused the children and their relatives but the police did not act against them.

The petition alleged that respondent No 6, Vinod Sharma, a right-wing activist who led the group to the station, was threatening the petitioners.

The petition also sought registration of FIR against Mishra and others.

“The court asked the children questions and ordered that they be immediately handed to their parents. The court asked the home secretary and in-charge of Indore Railway Police station to file a detailed report,” advocate K P Gangore, who appeared for the parents, told The Indian Express.

He said the girl whose complaint was cited by police to book Amrit under POCSO denied the charge in court. The matter has been listed for hearing on November 6.

Gangore said he submitted baptism certificates in court to counter the charge that some children were Hindus and were to be converted to Christianity in Kerala.