Late on Friday night, the residents of Kadavanthara in Kerala's Ernakulam district were in for a shock, when they found several girl children walking on the road way past 10 pm.
When asked where the girls were going at that hour, they revealed shocking instances of prolonged harassment by the nuns of a convent home they were residing in. From beating the children to forcing them to eat stale food, the allegations against the nuns are aplenty.
As many as 20 girls between the ages of 6 and 15 had left the convent home, allegedly after the nuns in charge of the home asked them to either put up with the harassment, or leave the home.
The convent houses 24 girls, who study in the school attached to the convent. The children come from underprivileged families.
"They constantly beat us up for even silly things. When we once pointed out that there were worms in the food, they told us to eat it nevertheless. All of us threw up after eating the food, each one of us fell sick. After that we were fed only kanji and pickle," one of the girls reportedly told the people on Friday night, amidst tears.
Another girl said that the nuns would refuse to switch on the fans for the children, and if questioned, would verbally abuse them.
The residents then informed the Kadavanthara police, who rushed to the spot.
Kadavanthara Sub-Inspector Vijayashankar told TNM that they took the children back to the convent, after they said that they were willing to stay at the home in the absence of the two nuns who harassed them.
"It was late in the night and that time we did not have any other option than to take the children back. They told us that if the school Principal was there, they were ready to stay at the home. We have taken the statements of most of the students, all of whom complained specifically about these two nuns," the SI said.
Based on the complaint by the 20 girls, the Kadavanthara police have now booked the two nuns – Sister Ambika and Sister Bency – under section 75 of Juvenile Justice Act, for allegedly harassing the children.
According to the police, many of the girl children have been residing in the home for about 10 years.
Speaking to TNM, Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Ernakulam chairperson Padmaja Nair said that they have asked the police to produce the children before the committee on Monday.
"I am told the kids are willing to continue living there if the accused nuns are removed. Management has assured that they will be removed. We have also learnt that the management is shutting down the centre on March 31. The students' exams are going on now, and after that, their parents have been asked to take the children back home. In case any of the parents are not in a position to take care of the kids, we will have to make alternate arrangements," she said.