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Home Crime FIR filed against Harsh Mander following complaints of child sexual abuse at children’s homes...

FIR filed against Harsh Mander following complaints of child sexual abuse at children’s homes run by his NGO, children made to participate in anti-CAA protests

Following the complaint alleging serious violations of the Juvenile Justice Act and other irregularities at two Children’s homes established by the Centre for Equity Studies (CES), an organisation co-founded by human rights activist Harsh Mander, an FIR has reportedly been lodged by the Delhi police against Harsh Mander at Mehrauli police station in Delhi. Mander is a former member of Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council (NAC) and a member of an organisation having links with Italian Secret Service and the Italian government.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had formed two teams led by its Chairperson Priyank Kanoogo to carry out an inspection of the two Children homes namely Umeed Aman Home for Boys and Khushi Rainbow Home for Girls. The two homes were inspected on October 1, 2020. The NCPCR had also taken cognisance of a complaint of child sexual abuse of Umeed Aman Home for Boys which is run by the Aman Biradari Trust founded by Mander.

Prevalence of child sexual abuse at boys’ home: Inspection report of the Commission

In its inspection report, the NCPCR had found the prevalence of sexual abuse at the boys’ home. As reported by Republic TV, the Commission had noted, “The Commission is saddened by the deplorable condition of the children who are living in these Homes and the negligent and callous attitude of the management of these Homes towards the welfare of the children and the upkeep of the infrastructure of these Homes”.

The Commission further noted that several instances of sexual abuse of children had taken place within the boys’ home in the years 2012, 2013 and 2016. “The Commission in a recent communication received information that the cases of sexual abuse are still prevalent in the Home and there is no reporting being done of the same. The non-reporting of such POCSO offences by the staff of the Home is a serious offence under POCSO Act, 2012 and also jeopardises the welfare and well-being of children in this Home”, the inspection report of the Commission reportedly stated.

Children made to participate in anti-CAA protests

According to the report of NCPCR on the functioning of children homes, the panel found that four-five girls were made to sit-in during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in 2019-20. The NCPCR panel also said a boy staying in Ummeed Aman Ghar was told that “the government only works for Hindus and keeps fighting in Pakistan”.

The panel in its report also alleged that homes kept children in tiny cabins and no social distancing was maintained during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Foreign Nationals visited the Home for ‘voluntary service’

The Commission reportedly found out during inspection that the Home was frequently visited by foreign nationals who provided ‘voluntary services’ there. “It is unclear to the Commission on what basis these foreign nationals permitted to give voluntary services in these Homes and interact with children while their visit to India was for other purposes”, the Commission said. As part of its recommendations, the NCPCR had directed the Department of Women and Child Development of the Delhi government to take appropriate action against this institution to ensure strict compliance with the rules. The Commission noted in the Inspection report that the absence of a child protection policy in the institution made the children vulnerable to abuse and neglect. The Commission had recommended shifting the children from the Homes to ensure their safety.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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