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The Deepashram orphanage at Gurgaon — for mentally and physically challenged children — has found itself in a controversy after an Italian neurologist complained to the Vatican Embassy about sexual abuse of children at the home. The neurologist, Dr Franco, had worked as a volunteer at Deepashram, established by Mother Teresa in 1995, for six months a couple of years ago. Brothers Contemplative — the male wing of Missionaries of Charity — manages the home, which has 66 boys aged between 12 and 26.
Franco registered his complaint at the Apostolic Nunciature, Chanakyapuri. Second secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature, Father Tomasz Grysa, said they received the “communication from Dr Franco” in February this year. The case has been referred to the hierarchical superiors of the Missionaries of Charity Brothers, Father Grysa said. At the orphanage, volunteers did not rule out the possibility of sexual abuse of younger inmates by the older ones. Brother Benedict, a volunteer from Rome, said: “If any case of this kind is reported to us, the guilty boys are punished.”
Abdullah, a 15-year-old inmate, said it was “common” for the older boys to sodomise the younger boys at night when no one was on guard. He accused a 24-year-old of sodomising a 12-year-old. “Bahut se bachche yahan par ganda kaam karte hain,” he said. Brother Benedict and attendants dismissed the allegation. Abdullah was shifted from the children’s home at Majnu Ka Tila to Gurgaon as he was a troublemaker, Brother Benedict said.
Another volunteer at the orphanage, Dr Wanda Toso from San Raffele Hospital in Milan, told HT that Franco had also told her about child abuse at Deepashram. She, however, did not have any personal confirmation from the boys as she did not speak Hindi. “I have not been able to interact with the children,” Toso said.