We come across incidents of physical, mental and sexual abuses to children and women in homes and orphanages every now and then. What we usually do is read, outrage, lament the apathy shown towards protecting the pillars of our civilization but finally, move on. It is undeniable that there is some awareness nowadays in this particular issue. The most gut wrenching part is perhaps, that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. One such case that created much outrage recently was the sordid saga of 89 girls who were separated from their mothers at birth and brought up by a pastor, Gideon Jacob, in an orphanage known as Mose Ministries.
This so-called orphanage first came to light when the Social Welfare department of Trichy district in Tamil Nadu tried to seal the place for measly crimes such as
(i) not registering the orphanage
(ii) not obtaining a licence to run it
(iii) not providing enough safety and security for the inmates which would have resulted in six months of imprisonment at maximum or fine or both.
Despite the institution having been found in 1994 in Usilampatti, Theni, it wasn’t registered even after shifting it to Trichy apart from getting a temporary registration in 2008 under the provisions of Orphanages and Other Charitable Homes (Supervision & Control) Act, 1960. The issue went to court in 2015 and that is when skeletons started tumbling out of Mr. Jacob’s closet. An NGO called ‘Change India’ filed a PIL asking the court to order a CBI inquiry for they had unearthed a number illegalities in Mose Ministries, trafficking being one of them. Well, that is the only allegation the main stream media headlines have been screaming about.
Court appointed an Additional District Judge to interview the children and inspect the premises. The report submitted by the ADJ brought out the details of mind-numbing level of brainwashing and a heartbreaking tale of snatching infants away from their mothers in the name of saving them from infanticide. The report confirmed the findings of Change India that the girls were being brought up in an unhygienic, isolated environment without counselors or mentors. They were completely cut off from the outside world, with their lives confined to the ministry. The truth of how ignorant they were kept was revealed, when on being asked, what she would do if she needed a pencil, a child answered that she would pray to Jesus and he would send it through someone. They were always being escorted by someone, even the school going children were picked up and dropped by the home’s driver. The tragedy is these children were of course unaware of the injustice being done to them. They were made to believe that they were being treated like princesses. However this particular detail must be seen in the light of a child’s reply that she would pray to Jesus, if she was stranded to send someone to take her home and wait for that person. The girls were intentionally kept ignorant while being brainwashed into believing that since they are being given good food and costly clothes, they have no further needs.
The children were sent to boarding schools and Mr.Jacob’s farm in Villupuram as punishment when they made mistakes. Those who were not sent to the hostels consider themselves fortunate because those who went there claimed that the food there was not good, they weren’t allowed to bath for more than three days in a week and beaten if they did. The administrator claimed that they would visit these boarding schools beforehand however the girls said that they were sent away instantaneously. There was no record of the mistakes the children made but it was recorded that they were sent to Villupuram as punishment. Mr. Jacob claimed that they were taught tailoring and made to read Bible in order to import discipline. But he couldn’t even recall the name of the teachers who taught tailoring. The children cleaned both the orphanage and the pastor’s house. They cooked for the both as well. They were also made to work in his bakery without any stipend (claims that it was training). So likely they might have been sent to clean his farm as punishment.
The ADJ’s report also revealed that two children were stopped from going to school because they interacted with other children in school. Even those who scored 200/200 in some subjects were made to work in the bakery or study theology. All these point towards a sinister attempt to bar practical and worldly knowledge to the children, indoctrinate them to such an extent that they would be dependent on the pastor forever. A negative impression was created about the government and its services from the initial stage. The children felt proud about being taken to private hospitals. It is pertinent to note that medical records of a girl having undergone abdominal Ultrasonography (a cyst was found in her ovary) and a physically and mentally specially abled girl who underwent treatment as an inpatient in a hospital for 5 days were not available. This and the lack of any mechanism to report sexual abuse raises suspicions about what went on in the place as denoted by the court.
Some children were branded as slow learners or as persons with learning disability without any records to prove it. One such child was sent to a special school but found to be normal and dropped out. Amid all this they were taken to Germany and Poland and were made to do road shows, street plays, prayers in public places and churches like lifeless show dolls. No norms were followed in issuing guardianship certificates and passports were obtained through dubious methods. Even though the court had said that the child welfare committee was completely in the dark about these events, after going through the list of CWC officials, one wonders if there was any conflict of interest owing to which appropriate action wasn’t taken. In the absence of truth, we can only speculate.
— fcra_analyst (@by2kaafi) September 28, 2017
One of the important findings that the judges highlighted is, “The children have been made to think that their pastor is suffering for the sins committed by them and in spite of the fact that he was their saviour, he is being troubled because of the sins of the girls”. In the end, the court ordered a CBI probe and the Collector, Social Welfare Officer and Child Protection officer to run the orphanage as the girls didn’t want to live anywhere else at that time. ADJ’s report noted that the older girls totally lacked general knowledge and confessed that they have never handled money.
They had no interaction with any person outside the home. “These children were brought up in artificial environment. The children know only three things: Jesus Christ, the Bible and the pastor. For them, pastor is God, they do not even watch television, it is anti-Christ for them,” Mr.Narayanan, founder of Change India said.
One of the volunteers of the NGO stated “No local person, except the Pastor’s friends, ever visited. They were forcibly involved in prayer and groomed for evangelist work”.
“A teacher from St. Philomena’s High School, which the girls attended for some years, tells me the Mose girls did not mingle with their classmates, had learning difficulties, and were entirely unexposed “to the outside world” reported The Hindu journalist Rohini Mohan whose article was the most detailed of the MSM reports.
Even girls who finished nursing courses weren’t allowed to work but made to do theology courses. So it is difficult to see reason in the court’s decision that the girls should be allowed to live as per their wish. What would they do in the real world without even knowing how to handle money! Even as the investigations were on and attempts to locate the parents through DNA tests were going on, the girls staged a road blockade demanding to be allowed to celebrate Christmas with their ‘Redeemer’. ‘The court order of January 2016 stated that the District Social Welfare Officer had informed the court that the orphanage had procured the children through a nurse working in the Government Hospital at Usilampatti with the help of the former President of the village panchayat.’ as per TNM report.
Meanwhile the pastor and his wife escaped to Germany which delayed the CBI investigation. Some of the mothers, on getting to know from the nurses that their children have been given to adoption centres, turned hopeful that they would be leading a nice life with a foreign family only to be left in a lurch not being able to take care of their troubled children. When a mother, whose child was given away by her mother-in-law when she was unconscious due to a complicated delivery, demanded for her child 8 months later. “The head nurse told me that she’d given her to a German-run shelter,” she said. They told her it was too late and that “some foreign family” had probably adopted the child. “I asked myself what could I offer the child? A drunk father, an ailing mother, a single meal a day, probably half an education.” She told herself her daughter would have a better future with a loving, affluent family abroad. She stopped looking”, Ms.Rohini reported. Father of a girl whose mother died giving birth to her said, “There was no one to take care of the baby. My mother wanted to kill it, but I did not agree for that. So, my friend and I handed over the baby to a child care home..Now, I want my daughter back”
“Parents told me that when a girl was born and the family was depressed, at that moment, the nurse would say, just leave the kid” said Devendran, an activist who helped identify the parents. Some parents even claim that they gave their kids to Mr.Jacob with the promise that they will get to meet their children often but the home was shifted in few days without them being notified.
While parents were looking forward to the reunion the court directed that girls above 18 years (82 out of 89 at that time) should be left to live as they wish and minor girls should be shifted to a new home. In between, a girl married a man working with the church run by Mr.Jacob and moved out of the orphanage. When the parents whose DNA tests yielded positive results approached the social welfare department of Trichy asking to execute the court’s orders fearing the pastor would influence the girl’s decision, they didn’t receive any concrete reply. Meanwhile the absconding pastor told BBC that whatever he did was with the social welfare department in the know of things.
The ways through which he obtained money from abroad for ‘saving’ the girls is explained in this post:
‘Pastor Gideon Jacob appears to be running Mose Ministries, Tiruchirappalli via a Company (likely Sec. 25, as can be seen from Part-5 of its CIN which stands as NPL). The name of the company is: Good Shepherd Evangelical Mission Private Limited and its CIN=U93090TN1974NPL006617. The same is also provided in the CIFI website. The Directors are Gideon Jacob and Ute Jacob’. As ‘Any amount received, in lieu of goods or services rendered by such person in the ordinary course of his business, trade or commerce whether within India or outside India or any contribution received from an agent or a foreign source towards such fee or cost shall be excluded from the definition of foreign contribution’.
Under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010, it is likely that the company offered ‘services’ to the German evangelical NGO Christliche Initiative fur Indien (CIFI) for which it was paid. The company was put in Defaulters list in April.
Now all the girls have attained majority, their parents have been found and Mr.Jacob has been arrested on arrival at Chennai airport. But has justice been served after all these years? No, even more skeletons roll down as Mr.Narayanan of Change India has claimed that 125 girls were shifted from Usilampatti to Trichy out of which only 89 are now with Mose Ministries today. No details could be found as to what happened to the rest of them. The cruel pastor even made sisters live as strangers making them believe that they were children of different parents left at his doorstep.
What happens to all the corrupt officials from the Social Welfare Officer who issued fake guardianship certificates, to passport officer who flouted rules, to the Mahila court judge, Jacinta Martin, whom the HC bench actually restrained from recommending action for siding with the girl’s decision without considering the fact that they exhibited symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome?
Is it wise to let our women and children be under the influence of certain religionists by letting them run an unbelievable number of homes and orphanages even as we are facing demographic challenges? Is it wise to let them take over a whole department through NGOs (most of the childline NGOs also belong to or filled with the same people). Will we wake up in time?