In yet another instance of rubbing salt into the wound, the Missionaries of Charity (MC) nuns have been evicted from their Shishu Bhawan in Kanpur Cantonment on January 3. The Shishu Bhawan was founded by Bharat Ratna and Nobel Laureate Mother Teresa.
This home for orphaned, destitute and abandoned children was established in June 1968, when the property was purchased from a private entity. For the last 53 years the Missionaries of Charity enjoyed its peaceful possession. This home gave over 1500 babies in adoption as provided for in law. They also served thousands of other poor and deprived like leprosy patients, unwed mothers and children of construction or migrant labour.
According to a press release issued by the Indian Catholic Forum, the Defence Estates Office (DEO) that claims to own all the land in the 62 cantonments in India, took the action claiming that Shishu Bhawan was built on lease land and the 90-year lease expired in 2019.
“Thereafter the sisters were trespassers for which they would have to pay a penalty of Rs. 1 crore per annum, amounting to Rs. 2 crores,” the release said.
The DEO seemed to have been blind to the altruistic services the MC nuns rendered to all in need, irrespective of caste or creed.
The nuns ran from pillar to post in Lucknow and New Delhi but were unable to get a sympathetic hearing from the DEO or an appointment with the Defence Minister. Sr Prema, the Superior General of the congregation, felt that they could not meet the demands of the Defence establishment, more so now that even their access to foreign funding had also been denied due to the rejection of their application for renewal of their FCRA account.
“In fear and trembling, the Missionaries of Charity meekly surrendered before the army authorities and handed over peaceful possession of their home to the DEO on 3rd January.”
The eleven remaining orphan children, most of whom were severely handicapped, were relocated to other Shishu Bhawans in neighbouring Allahabad, Varanasi, Bareilly and Meerut.
The Catholic Forum Convener Chhotebhai said the citizens of Kanpur were outraged at this eviction and takeover, but remained mute spectators as the nuns had already decided to surrender the property, probably in the hope that by doing so the existing demand of Rs. 2 crores would be waived and that their peaceful act would hold them in good stead while re-applying for the FCRA account.
What will now happen to those 1500 families that had adopted children from Shishu Bhawan? It was always like a Nanihal (grandmother’s home) for them. So too the orphaned who were given away in marriage looked to Shishu Bhawan as their maika (mother’s home), the release said.
The release further stated: “On what basis did the DEO fix an arbitrary demand of Rs 1 crore per annum on these poor sisters? …. It certainly doesn’t paint the army or DEO in a good light. Did it deliberately choose a soft target knowing that it did not have the stomach for a fight? This selective targeting also seems to have the mal-odour of a communal bias. Is this how the nation repays the true desh bhakts, those who serve the neediest of society without expecting anything in return?”
The action against Missionaries of Charity in Kanpur comes close on the heels of the rejection of their application for renewal of FCRA account due to some ‘adverse inputs’ received by the government against the Congregation.
In another instance, a case was registered against a home for girls in Gujarat’s Vadodara city, run by the MC nuns, over reports of alleged forced conversion of inmates. There had been instances of raids conducted in their some other homes too in the recent past.