' Conversion Controversy and its Effect on Kids

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Conversion Controversy and its Effect on Kids
By Florine Roche

April 17, 2011

The issue of conversion has been making news in the undivided Dakshina Kannada district for the past few weeks. As of now arguments, defenses, accusations and counter-accusations are going on about the legality or the illegality of running orphanages and institutions that take care of young children and it is left to the authorities concerned to deal with the issue as per the law of the land.

Of course, in most of these alleged conversion cases, especially the recent ones, it is the children who are in the centre of the entire issue, because the main allegations of the so-called self-styled police were that these children were being converted. However, it is pitiable to note that, children are caught in the controversy not because of their own volition but out of circumstances. The conversion issue has become a huge conundrum and is sure to remain that way. So leaving the issue of conversion aside, it is necessary to spare a thought to the children and what they undergo when they find themselves in the centre of a highly explosive and sensitive issue like conversion.

Considering that most of these children are young and oblivious to the goings on concerning them, their sudden exposure to unwanted controversy, to observation homes (remand homes), questioning and quizzing by various people, including the unknown moral police, is sure to have a deleterious impact on their mental bearing and personality.

In the three latest incidents of conversion which have been flashed all over the media extensively, the children are central to the controversy. In the recent controversy involving an orphanage, there were 41 children whom the activists interrogated when they were in the bus, all set to go to their homes for their annual holidays. These days when so many unpleasant and unlawful incidents are common, including that of trafficking of children, one cannot grudge if someone felt it necessary to alert the authorities (not to take the mantle on them) when they saw so many children in a bus or saw something unusual as in the case of Haleyangadi Prayer home. May be such watchfulness on the part of the citizens would go a long way in curbing illegal activities going on in this part of the district. But unknown people interrogating children all of a sudden with all sorts of questions that too in a public place, are sure to create panic and instill fear psychosis among children.

That is exactly what happened to these 50-odd children whom the officials of women and child welfare department and the police officials sent to the Observation Home at Bondel. Faced with a sudden exposure these children looked totally lost and anxious and many of them started crying looking at the police and the activists. Prof Rameela Shekar of School of Social Works, Roshani Nilaya, who is also a mental health professional, says, "Usually parents instill some fear in children (as an act of deterrent) when they are small that policemen would come and take them and therefore, children have that fear about police instilled in their psyche. So the moment the police are involved the children are scared and naturally it would leave a bad scar in their minds."

Prof Rameela Shekar feels that even for adults, when faced with sudden interrogations and when unknown people start questioning, it is unpalatable and creates unnecessary stress. So one can imagine the mental trauma and turbulence these children undergo and the kind of ordeal they face due to such incidents. It can have a lasting impact on them. "If not counseling, what these children need is a process to help them overcome their inhibitions or readjust. They need to go through a process where they need to ventilate their feelings so as to eliminate that fear in them through interaction” says Prof Rameela Shekar, who feels sorry for these children.
One can imagine the mental status of these children who are caught in such situations, be it the incident of Ebenezer prayer hall of Haleyangadi or the Youth Social Service Charitable Trust of Bejai. Unlike normal children who live under the protective wings of their parents these children who stay in the orphanages, away from their loved ones, have a troubled childhood either due to abusive and alcoholic parents and some of them might be orphans also. Their background is also very complicated most of the time. So many of them are anxious children, anxiety arising out of their troubled family lives, some of them even suffering from compulsive disorders and mild depression and other common disorders these children are usually prone to.

All these children who were caught in these horrid incidents of conversion controversy recently were huddled into the observatory home at Bondel by the officials of women and child care department, and many who visited  the place when all these children were housed there talk about the appalling conditions of the Observation Home (OM). It is said that there are only two toilets in the OM for the 50-odd children and the situation got further compounded because troubled children have a tendency of frequent urination. The OM resembled more like an underground dungeon and in such a milieu the children were naturally frightened and many of them stood there mum-chance by the unfortunate turn of the events.

Prof Hilda Rayappan of Prajna Counseling Centre feels that it is unfortunate that children get entangled in the quagmire of conversion controversy. "If people feel or see something amiss or wrong they should take into task the management or the people who manage such institutions and spare the children from the agony they are subjected to in such situations," she contends. In the Stella Maris incident those who felt it was necessary to alert the officials, should have first alerted the officials and diverted the bus to the orphanage and asked the management to answer to the officials so that the children could have been spared of the nightmare of answering the many questions posed by the moral police.

A few girls of Youth Social Service Charitable Trust of Bejai were sent to Prajna Counseling Centre after the incident as these girls were about to answer their SSLC examinations. One can but imagine the tribulations of these students and their mental status at a time when they were all set to answer an important examination of their life.

According to Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 and the amendment Act of 2006, the police are supposed to follow certain rules while dealing with children. They are supposed to go in mufti when they enter into such homes so that children are not frightened. People involved, including police, officials and activists are also not supposed to use the word ‘remand home’ in the presence of children (the refined version of it is observation homes). But in the recent incidents one could see police in Khakis, which is quite frightening to children. May be the police responded with alacrity when they were alerted and had no time to pay attention to such details. Newspapers and television channels have flashed pictures of policemen in Khakis escorting these children to the OM and other places. Fortunately, some of the children have been sent back to their homes with their parents by the officials. This insensate folly, knowingly or unknowingly on the part of the police and other officials itself is enough to make the children shudder with panic and leave a long-lasting fear in their impressionable minds.

Anybody running institutions for children violating the law of the land or those ill-treating children taking advantage of their poverty or difficulties need to be dealt with, as per law and no sane person would support or come to the rescue of such people who play with the lives of innocent children. Jungle law would prevail if everyone assumes the role of the moral police and tries to take law in their own hands, merely presuming that conversions take place. No person can claim immunity under the pretext of riding a high moral horse under any circumstances. Moreover, it would be in the best interest of our children to keep them away from such controversies as much as possible and save them from further adding to their cup of woes which is already brimful, considering their pathetic background and family atmosphere.

A troubled childhood often leaves children emotionally crippled and drained, etching a permanent scar of fear and anxiety. Let us be humane and more considerate in dealing with children because what they need is quality life which would transmute into quality human resource. It is not enough to lead a life, but how one leads a life is what matters. Let us not allow children to be the sacrificial goats in the hands of grown up people and let them enjoy their normal childhood, which is the most pleasant and enjoyable stage in the life of a human being.



Comments on this article
Guru Baliga, MangaloreFriday, April 22, 2011
Very timely article. Thanks for setting the focus right on the core.
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Clara Lewis, Kemmannu/DubaiTuesday, April 19, 2011
My humble request to all Responsible for the Conversion Controversy, Please donot disturb or interfear in the lives of these innocent angels. They are already troubled and distrubed in their lives. At very young age they have seen the life of 23 years old with their drunken parents/family members/harsh society members. They don't have anywhere to go if they denied education, food, shelter in these orphanages. The education they get now will build their future. Atleast they can dream/hope to have a good future with it, otherwise they will remain at the same place where they are now with same condition with unchanged life more/less like their parents or turn to drugs/ drinking/ crime/ illegal works etc., or somebody can exploit these innocent children eassily with little cash.

As Mr.Sathish Bhaktha, mangalore said only two religion good vs evil. In death we take along with us only two things to face our Lord God the deeds we did in this earth the good or bad (Karma), choose the life which will lead you to heaven, the soul is permanent.
Comment on this message     

jacobnelson, mumbiaTuesday, April 19, 2011
our object is try to bring smile on childrens face.

whatever bajarangies or their supporters!
they will pay heavyly for what they have done willingly.
it is they decided to bring tears on innocent childrens face.
BJP run government may forgive them!
but creater will see all creations equially no partiality with him, for him no relegion.
Comment on this message     

Ronald D, UdupiTuesday, April 19, 2011
Realistic analysis. Our politicians issue long and shameless statements for silly issues. Now why silence?? Why the authorites are supporting Gunda Moral police? Why law of land is not applicable to the self styled lawless BD's? Is it because of communal govt is ruling the state. Are they determined to destroy the civil society in the name of non existing conversion?
In the above case, they troubled the children going home for holidays. Enjoying annual holidays is called as conversion? Police and BDs should ask this to themselves.
Comment on this message     

Melwin pinto, Mangalore/PatnaMonday, April 18, 2011
How I wish the B Dal and similar outfits had worked and done something more profitable by helping these hapless children by running child care centres themselves.. These men are no good. the government will one day have to regret for creating this 'frankenstein' which they will lose control of...
Comment on this message     

Sathish bhaktha, mangaloreMonday, April 18, 2011
Dear all there are only two religions of the world ..good vs evil ....which one would you choose ...there is no Hindu,no Muslim ,no Christians ...do good in this world and die in order to be heaven to see who is god ...earth is actually a dustbin for god and we are worms fighting each other for everything some days later i met a person who make jalebi two persons were arguing whether jalebi is Hindu food or Muslim food ....nowadays even for food distinction have begun ....i believe in Dec 25 2012 as end of the world and so be it real ...fed up
Comment on this message     

A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.Monday, April 18, 2011
Mr. George Cruz, U.S.A.

With due respect to your comment,
may I ask you a question.

It is great that you have highly
commented the great work done
by the Catholic Church and other
related organizations in charity
service and education.

But you felt some misunderstanding
or an aversion towards the
" Prayer Halls".

In the " Prayer Halls" do they
promote drugs, liquor or any
illegal and immoral activities?

Do they train the visitors or
members to conduct terrorism?

Are they forcing anybody to attend
the prayer meetings through some
physical force and intimidation?

If none of those events are taking
place in the "Prayer Halls", what
is wrong with the prayer halls?

Human beings are different than
animals they need spiritual
peace and enrichment in this
fast moving society. Please attend
one of the "Prayer Halls" and
write your own experience so that
we all can get some new insight
about their real nature.

Conversion in religion and politics
can't be blocked through any
national law, because it is the
fundamental right of every individual to
believe, follow and propagate his
or her faith without any fear
in a secular and democratic
nation. Since India is a secular
and democratic nation, everybody
has the God-given right to pray
without any fear.
Comment on this message     

Joseph F. Gonsalves, Bannur, Puttur / MangaloreMonday, April 18, 2011
Dear Mr. George Cruz, Mangalore/USA, Hindus have done conversions, Christians have done conversions, Muslims have done conversions Buddhists have done conversions, Sikhs are also propagating their faith to others for conversion. Now of which conversions are you speaking to? The History is evident to this effect.
Are you not feeling guilty in pointing to Christians only???? In the United States of America, and Europe the fundamental Hindus are indulged in converting Christians and Muslims to Hinduism. Are they stopping conversions? India is a secular country and to accept any faith, humans have freedom. THOSE WHO ARE NOT ADHERING TO THE CONSTITUTION ARE TRAITORS.
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Naina, Mangalore/USAMonday, April 18, 2011
God Almighty is watching from above.
Bajran Dal beware. God's wrath is on you.Repercussions will destroy you completely, for bringing the tears from little innocent children, who are trapped by your dirty politics.
Comment on this message     

jacobnelson, mumbiaMonday, April 18, 2011
Only in Maangalore a small piece of land where Bajarangis can make Gundagiri,
There are orphanages all over India specially in our native state Kerala there are Orphanages run by nuns. Is there guts for Bajarangies to show gundagiri in Kerala?
They will be totally wipedout without any sign.
It is only possible in mangloare becasue of BJP and mangalore police support.
If it would have been in any other state so far they could have been brought to Justice.
Comment on this message     

Joseph F. Gonsalves, Bannur, Puttur / MangaloreMonday, April 18, 2011
Comment on this message     

Enid Albuquerque, MangaloreMonday, April 18, 2011

Christian orphanages, homes for the aged and charity schools have been functioning since time immemorial. There was no problem what so ever all these years. The moment BJP govt. came to power in the state minorities have come under attack for no apparent reason. All these anti social, extremist activities like church attacks, pub attack, attack on orphanages have become daily occurances. It is beyond doubt that the Bajrangdal, VHP and Rama Sene have been patronised by the ruling Govt. It is really disgusting to see that even the Police force is at the beck and call of these extremist organisations.

All these years all the religions had a peaceful and harmonious co existence. I really wonder who is sponsoring and funding their terrorist activities in Mangalore? In the process Mangalore has become a very unstable, un predictable and unsafe place for everyone. People will think twice before making any investment, or any kind of move to Mangalore. Its a sad state of affairs.

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Reena, mangaloreSunday, April 17, 2011
So many non-catholics are staying in hostels runned by nuns all over India . How many of them are converted into Christians. What is happening in Mangalore is a play , played by politicians. HOw come only BD & RSS are taking law in their hands and harassing us.
Comment on this message     

I.J.S.Shet, MangaloreSunday, April 17, 2011
Good anlysis of the aftermath. Indeed it has a very negative impact on the life and future of the children.
But, what action or reaction have the authorities and Govt. taken on the perpetrators? Have they been questioned/investigated/checked???
Has there been some counsel with those who rum the orphanages/institutions?
It is necessary people who matter get together and look into these and press for transparent action to reassure all concerned.Thank You.-ijss.
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George Cruz, Mangalore/USASunday, April 17, 2011
Over the years the Catholic organizations have contributed immensly in India in the areas of education, charity, etc. But today there are new institutions so called the "Prayer Halls". These prayer halls are nothing but the front end of alleged conversions. These prayer halls are funded by western organizations and they work on quota (people converted/dollar amount) system.
Comment on this message     

thomas, mumbaiSunday, April 17, 2011
Friends How long are we willing to bow before Moral Police I have seen similar ways of attacks and try to become hero's but don't you remember What was leaked in Wiki Leaks This is what is the way that BJP with the help of Hooligans like to do. Nothing to save our country or for the development but dist-ruction its time that we all equip and get trained to counter this game plan. This is supported by our police who can file a case against them and fight to the end bring them to books. Its not that they are aware but they like to show the fear. Wake up Mangalorians put up few RTI why such treatment to the children. Don't the poor and marginalised have a right to choose. The days of RAJAs are gone
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A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.Sunday, April 17, 2011
Those anti-convesion fanatics are
challenged to take immediate
actions to gather the wandering
children in Karnataka to give
them food, clothings and education.

If the Christians are doing those
services, though not perfectly
they are saving human lives and
giving the children a second chance
for a better day.

The anti-conversion elements of the
society is greatly enjoying while
watching the tears of the helpless
children from all different
religious backgrounds.

Mr. Morarji Desai was of Brahmin
origin, born in Gujarat but went
all the way to Bombay to study in
Wilson college (Christian). The
teacher once forced him to narrate
the Lord's prayer. Mr. Desai became an anti-Christian.

When he became the Prime Minister
of India, he wanted the do the
first thing along with the help of
one anti-Christian O.P. Thyagi to
enact a national law of anti-
conversion specifically targeting
the minority Christian community
of India.

Both the Prime Minister and Thyagi
disappeared from their life-long
political career by the mysterious
hand of God.

It seems like, something of that
nature is going to take place in
Karnataka very soon. Some politicians will fall down from
the political rostrum, and their
unexpected fall will be an eternal
fall from the fantastic career
of politics. Whosoever is pulling
the string must watch for surprises
because God is watching the
tears of the orphans.

Comment on this message     

Roshan, MangaloreSunday, April 17, 2011
BJP having failed in all departments and outwitting congress on corruption, they will use this issue with the blessings of RSS. Conversion issue is one such issue, that affects sentiments and can safeguard BJP.
People are told 'stay united or else someone will convert you'. Sounds silly but when carried with malicious stories it makes impact.

There will be lot of suffering and distrust to come. Christians because they will be targetted, Hindus because christians who are forefront in eductation,health and social service will be cautious in helping. This is what RSS wants and in every BJP ruled state, this will be a political feature for sure.
Comment on this message     

Lancelot N Tauro, Manglore - Doha QatarSunday, April 17, 2011
Why cant these VHP sponsored Paid Bajran Dal goondas converted back to good human beings by taking away thier anti social and inhuman activities releasing from the clutches of RSS and VHP (Upper Caste)negative thoughts.
Comment on this message     

H M Pernal , MangaloreSunday, April 17, 2011
What abt the other side of the story? without any controversy are the children in these homes safe? Pl see madhur bandarkars film page 3
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Louis D'Souza, Udupi/KuwaitSunday, April 17, 2011
Before St. Thomas came to India all our ancestors where Hindus, (0001A.D.) they listen to St. Thomas as they where wise and accepted Christianity. When you find Core i7 Note book forget the type writer. Tippu Sultan prosecuted them, they escaped to Goa, came back with Portuguese family names but they never changed their faith. Till today there are Christians with Indian family names. When you have LED TV with 3D effect, forgets conventional TV. You can change everything other than your Father / Mother of course can’t change wife/husband. The day we Christians start taking revenge, most of the Christians will start converting to other religions, because it’s against Christian values n beliefs. Mahatma Gandhi said, I believe in Christianity but not in Christians (he was referring to British), but today if Mahatma was alive definitely he would have appreciated the work of Christians throughout India. Mahatma Ahimsa Satyagraha was based on Jesus teaching he read the whole Bible and followed the Bible.
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Ronald, BejaiSunday, April 17, 2011
Good Article
But district administration is totally failed to maintain law and order in Mangalore.

Mumbai police second in the world after scotland in prevention of crime


Mangalore police prooved again that they are ready to wear Bangels and Skirt.
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Manohar Veigas, UDUPISunday, April 17, 2011
Let's see the above 'controversy' incidents illustrated above from a layman point of view. The children under our scanner did not have any issues with their care-takers, equally their parents had voluntarily sent them to the institutions with all awareness. There was no cases against the said institutions. Then the question is what is the credibility of the individuals or the organisation who suddenly appreared with all allegations. From where did they gather the weightage so as to summon the local authorities to look in to the matter from their allegation point of view. In fact, if the same authority would have taken the individuals who summoned them to the scene to task, it would not have suprised any one to find that most of them having a criminal record or just a liability to their own family. The NGOs need to highlight the authorities the fact about questioning the credibility and background of the individual complainant of any organisation equally and reporting the same to the press and media.
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Max & Jessie Rasquinha, Mangalore/Houston, TexasSunday, April 17, 2011
In a secular country such as India with ever-growing population added with illiteracy, poverty and communal diversity, contraversies and misunderstandings particularly over religious issues will always prevail. As much as India's democracy is built upon a strong foundation of constitution the freedom of religion, freedom or speech and freedom of press will always prevail with frequent unrests. So long as our political leaders and religious leaders maintain a close dialog with a distinct objective of resolving delicate religious issues amicably and peacefully, everything can be tackled thru mutual respect and understanding.

The beauty and strength of democracy is far beyond temporary issues that will flare up in the community from time to time. People of all faiths and backgrounds have to sit together and break bread together under one roof and resolve matters thru so many diplomatic channels. This is where Education comes in the picture. Intellectuals from the Universities, Colleges and schools should have constant interactions on social, religious, political, economical and cultural issues and should patch up matters thru mutual respect and love. Festivals, rituals and celebrations should be utilized for various compromizes so that our friendship with each other is utilized for resolving various delicate issues, specially those relate to religion and politics.

India is a great country. Greatness has to be proven thru the value of friendship and solidarity.
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Alwyn, Mangalore - USASunday, April 17, 2011
Who are the perpetrators?
Almost any adult involved in a relationship with a child is a potential perpetrator. Parents, teachers, pastors, social workers, neighbors, lawyers, or judges may all be capable of emotional maltreatment.1 Common characteristics of the abusing adult include blaming or belittling the child in public, describing the child negatively, always assuming the child is at fault, having unrealistic expectations of the child, openly admitting to disliking or hating the child, threatening the child with severe punishment, withdrawing comfort as a means of discipline, being emotionally cold and un-supportive, suffering from alcohol and drug abuse, and possessing a violent nature.
Comment on this message     

Alwyn, Mnaglore - USASunday, April 17, 2011

How is it identified?
Although emotional abuse can hurt as much as physical abuse, it can be harder to identify because the marks are left on the inside instead of the outside. Not surprising, there exist few well-validated measures of childhood emotional abuse. Clinicians can use a revised version of the Child Abuse & Trauma Scale (CATS) which targets measures for emotional abuse. Caregivers can also closely observe children’s behaviors & personalities. Children suffering from emotional abuse are often extremely loyal to the parent, afraid of being punished if they report abuse, or think that this type of abuse is a normal way of life.

Behavioral indicators of an emotionally abused child include inappropriate behavior that is immature or more mature for the child’s age, dramatic behavioral changes (disruption of activities, clinging or compulsively seeking affection & attention), aggressiveness, uncooperativeness, bedwetting or loss of bowel control (after a child has been trained), & destructive or antisocial behavior (being constantly withdrawn and sad). Furthermore, poor relationships with peers, lack of self confidence, unusual fears for the child’s age (fear of going home, being left alone, specific objects), or inability to react with emotion or develop an emotional bond with others are also indicators. Realistically, any of the above behaviors may also be seen in normal children, but a change in pattern of these behaviors is a strong indicator of emotional abuse.

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Madava Nayak, MangaloreSunday, April 17, 2011
Good article. But what to do...?
In Mangalore democracy is totally failed because of negligence of police & Govt authorities.

Gunda's are having full authority to take the law in their hands by the permission of police & no doubt in it.
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Alwyn, Mangalore - USASunday, April 17, 2011
Fact Sheet: Emotional Child Abuse
What is it?
Emotional child abuse is maltreatment which results in impaired psychological growth and development. It involves words, actions, and indifference.2 Abusers constantly reject, ignore, belittle, dominate, and criticize the victims. This form of abuse may occur with or without physical abuse, but there is often an overlap. Examples of emotional child abuse are verbal abuse excessive demands on a child’s performance penalizing a child for positive, normal behavior (smiling, mobility, exploration, vocalization, and manipulation of objects) discouraging caregiver and infant attachment penalizing a child for demonstrating signs of positive self-esteem and penalizing a child for using interpersonal skills needed for adequate performance in school and peer groups. In addition, frequently exposing children to family violence and unwillingness or inability to provide affection or stimulation for the child in the course of daily care may also result in emotional abuse.

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Raja, MangaloreSunday, April 17, 2011
Poor children are made to suffer because of the dirty politics carried out by the BD & RSS.
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elias, mumbaiSunday, April 17, 2011
Govt.s duty is to collect taxes and spend it as they wish. Also sell the natural resources for their personnal benefit . Law and order is given as sub contract to Bajrung Dal and it s out fit. Police acting subordinates to Bajrung Dal when called come running and threaten the innocent.also submit a report whom to punish.
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Lydia Lobo, KadriSunday, April 17, 2011

Let me for once forget moral policing, allegations of conversion, the trauma the centers had to undergo and concentrate on this very important point that you highlighted the impact on these young minds.

These children come from such a background where the father is always drunk. Frequent involvements in petty brawls may have led to one/two lock up incidents too, which may have given the children an impression that the police are there to take people away. This could be the reason for their weeping at the sight of police or being subjected to questioning.

I do sympathize with the little minds who I am doubtful would return to the centers. Their mothers may not want them to be subjected to such trauma again. It may have been a pleasant scene to see them relatively healthy when they leave for annual vacation. But by the end of their vacation, famine hit scenario is certain because of their drunkard father least bothered to check if the children ate or not.

As a consequence of this incidence, they will be deprived of education, subjected to malnutrition and a next generation illiterates in the making.

Anyway, nice narration and timely too.
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Dave, MangaloreSaturday, April 16, 2011
The center of controversy-the HAPLESS CHILDREN were the most neglected(their trauma) in this act of disturbance of peace of society by moral police, who indulged in act of brutal invasion of childrens peace & right to have a better education, on silly pretext.
What our police, the socalled child welfare officers & finally the elected representatives who were conspicuous by their absence-when everything going on under their very nose-were doing in discharge of their duties. Why they be not sued for dereliction of duty in causing mental trauma to minor children by taking law ito their own hand or taking high-handed proactive action by unregistered rowdy organisation-from whom these officers & police take orders nowadays.
I request our MLAs & peoples representatives to come out in open & make a public statement against taking law into their hands & disturbing the peace of society by raising false bogies & subjecting innocent people to acute trauma-Otherwise we have to assume, they too are party to above acts of vandalism to further their agenda of dividing the society to enhance their votebank at the expense of public peace. Without their tacit blessing these things cannot take place in broad daylight.
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