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HVK Archives: Court stops father's forcible conversion attempt

Court stops father's forcible conversion attempt - Rediff on Net

Bibhuti Mishra in Bhubaneshwar ()
April 13, 1999

Title: Court stops father's forcible conversion attempt
Author: Bibhuti Mishra in Bhubaneshwar
Publication: Rediff on Net
Date: April 13, 1999

Gouri Raul (17) and her twin brother Gautam had complained that their
father Giridhari Raul had tried to forcibly convert them to Christianity
on March 18.

The police did nothing but a voluntary organisation, Centre for Child
and Women Development, came to their rescue and filed a petition in the
Orissa High Court on March 27 seeking the court's intervention in
protecting the children from their father.

The police, urged on by the court, probed the case then and confirmed
the allegation. So the court appointed their neighbours, K R Panigrahi
and his wife, as the guardians.

"It's only the first battle won in a prolonged war; now we will press
for grant of maintenance for the children," says CCWD secretary Sadasiv
Swain. But this is not a communal issue.

According to Gouri, her mother Uma died in hospital on March 16 of
breast cancer. Uma was taken to hospital against her husband's wishes
after she began gasping for breath.

He had tried to treat her breast cancer by offering prayers at Potta in
Kerala and later at their home in Bhubaneswar. After Uma died, he had
her body buried according to Christian rites. Girdidhari Raul was aided
in this by his friends of the Union church.

"My father... was cruel to my mother when she was alive and, at the
instance of his friends, took her to Kerala. After her death he tried to
force me and my brother into Christianity... We feel totally insecure in
his custody, " said Gouri.

Mrs Panigrahi, appointed the guardian by the court, says Giridhari Raul
hoped to grab the mother's property by sending the children away.

The court has not addressed itself to the issue of exhuming Uma's body
and getting it cremated as per Hindu rites, as desired by Gouri.

Sanjukta Sarkar, a social activist involved in the case says, "The
communal angle needs to be downplayed here; what is of paramount
importance is the welfare of the children."

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