BHUBANESWAR/ DHENKANAL: As a video went viral showing religious conversion (Duban ritual) ceremony purportedly at the shelter home run by Good News India at Beltikiri in Dhenkanal district which is in the news for alleged sexual abuse of minors, the State Government denied to have any such information in this regard. “So far, no complaint has been lodged in connection with the video showing a religious conversion ceremony,” Women and Child Development Minister Prafulla Samal told mediapersons here on Tuesday.
Samal is under fire over the issue of alleged sexual abuse of minors at the shelter home as the opposition parties, Congress and BJP, have taken to the streets demanding his resignation. Activists of the Odisha Pradesh Mahila Congress went in a rally here and burnt the effigy of the Minister demanding his resignation. The Minister said strong action will be taken against the guilty, if there are any allegations about religious conversion.
Allegations that shelter homes run by the organisation are being used for conversion have put the State Government in an embarrassing situation as Odisha was the first State in the country to enact the anti-conversion law, the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967. The Minister said investigation is underway to identify unregistered shelter homes. “Instructions have been issued to the Collectors to verify the registration document of the shelter homes under the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act and initiate action against those which have not been registered.
The reports of the District Collectors are awaited,” he said. Meanwhile, simultaneous raids were conducted on the shelter homes run by the organisation across Odisha on Tuesday. A joint team comprising members of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and the police raided the shelter home at Chuliapasi in Udala block of Mayurbhanj district and vacated all the children. Besides, 144 inmates of the shelter home at Chhatrapur in Ganjam district were shifted to the CWC office.
According to police sources, a special court under POCSO had given consent for remand of Rehman for two days. During interrogation, he disclosed that funds came from USA for the residential child care institution. He also said their main organisation Salgadia Happy and Holy Home society was registered under 1961 Act in West Bengal. Since their office is situated in Balgadia block of West Bengal, there is no need for registration under JJ Act in Odisha, he told SP Santosh Kumar Nayak. DCWC had issued order to Sadar police in two phases to register appropriate cases against the culprits involved. Earlier, DCPO had filed a complaint at Sadar police station on violation of JJ Act.
Dhenkanal Police interrogated Good News India’s chairman Faiz Rehman and gathered information regarding sources of funds, network and other details. Rehman along with care taker Simanchal Nayak and project staff Udit Kumar Lima were arrested and sent to district jail after bail plea was rejected on Monday.