More than 200 missing orphans taken by Hindu holy men after the earthquake
Kathmandu, June 18, 2015: Nepali authorities have banned the transfer of children to shelters and centres run by Hindu holy men after 237 children went missing when they found refuge in such sites in the wake of the massive 25 April earthquake. The Indian-based Patanjali Yogpeeth Yoga Centre run by guru Ramdev is one of them.
The order was issued after the Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB), the government body responsible for monitoring children’s movements in the country, reported the disappearance of 215 children from Gorkha District and 22 from Okhaldhunga District. Most of the children lost their parents in the powerful earthquake that killed 8,700 and injured 17,000 more.
“Hundreds of children who lost their parents or guardians have been welcomed by many organisations working on behalf of shelters run by gurus in India. However, many of them are currently unaccounted for,” CCWB Director Dilli Ram Giri told AsiaNews.
The situation came to light on 9 June when police in Kathmandu and Dhading District rescued 195 children from the Lho monastery, in Lho village (Gorkha District).
Minors were travelling without the authorisation of their home district, which was made compulsory to prevent the trafficking and exploitation of children after thousands of complaints were filed in recent weeks.
The authorities have charged Chiranjibi Bhandari, from the Nepal Children’s Organisation, of criminal association aimed at the sale of children from government-run schools.
Officials rescued 337 children from several districts, including Dhading, Dolakha, Kavre, Okhadhunga, Rasuwa, Nuwakot, Lamjung and Rukum.
According to Superintendent Krishna Gautam, head of the Women and Children Department in the Nepalese police, child trafficking has increased significantly following the earthquake.
On Tuesday, with a mandate from the Nepal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Kavre District Administration Office raided the Patanjali Yogpeeth Yoga Centre and rescued 22 children who were about to be moved to the organisation’s headquarters in Haridwar (in the Indian state of Uttarakhand), and returned them to their parents.
Led by Baba Ramdev, a well-known guru, the Indian-based Patanjali Yogpeeth Yoga Centre is setting up a branch in Nepal.
Right after the earthquake, Baba Ramdev announced that he would take in 500 children affected by the earthquake, and provide them with care and education up to the fifth grade in Haridwar. However, minors found in the yoga centre in Kavre were not authorised to move.
“Those found to be taking minors with them without permission will face human trafficking charges,” warned Laxmi Dhakal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“Many children taken to India will not be allowed in shelters run by Indian Hindu gurus, even if they have the right papers, because of reports about serious cases of exploitation,” said Kavre District Chief Sudarshan Dhakal.