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Odisha Police planning to send team to Bengal to verify religous conversion claim

Bhubaneswar | Odisha Police is planning to send a team to West Bengal to verify claims of religious conversion being carried out by an NGO at one of its shelter home in the neighbouring state.

The NGO is in the news following allegations of sexual harassment at one of its facility at Beltikiri in Dhenkanal district of Odisha. The incident had sparked statewide outcry and three persons, including the managing director of the NGO, Fayaz Rahman, were arrested in connection with the case.

“We have got some indication that religious conversion of inmates was being undertaken at the NGO’s shelter home at Salgadia in West Bengal. The district police have sought permission of higher officials to visit West Bengal in this connection,” Dhenkanal Superintendent of Police, Santosh Nayak, told PTI over phone.

The SP’s remark that religious conversion of inmates might be taking place at a shelter home run by the NGO in West Bengal, was based on information provided by Rahman during his two-day police remand, police sources said. The two-day police remand of Rahman ended Wednesday and a local POCSO court extended the MD’s police remand by another two days from 5 pm Wednesday. Rahman and two others were arrested by the police last week on charge of sexual abuse of minor children at the shelter home in Dhenkanal distsrict.

Referring to the video clippings of ‘Duban’ (a ritual performed for conversion to Christianity) being telecast on the electronic media, the SP said that the rituals shown in the video were not performed at any shelter home in Odisha.

“The police have received indication that it was instead performed by the NGO at its shelter home at Salgadia in West Bengal. To ascertain the veracity of the incident, a team will be sent to the neighbouring state,” he said.

Stating that the NGO, “Good News India”, was not registered in Odisha, the SP said, “The NGO, was registered in West Bengal under the Bengal Society Registration Act. It had not been able to produce any document regarding its registration in Odisha.”

The SP also informed that the police had verified the documents of the NGO regarding central registration for overseas funding. They also checked other documents related to the utilisation certificate, the audit report and the filing of Income Tax returns.

The NGO receives overseas fund to the tune of Rs 15 crore to Rs 16 crore every year and utilises the money for maintenance of shelter homes, construction of new homes and purchase of land to set up its infrastructure, the SP said.

The SP said the annual audit report about collection of fund received from local and overseas sources and the expenditure of the NGO is prepared by a chartered accountant firm in Kolkata.

Replying to a question, the SP said the statement of the inmates of the shelter home in Dhenkanal have been recorded in the presence of the District Magistrate as evidence. There is enough evidence that the children were subjected to sexual abuse at the shelter home in Odisha, he said.

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