Tamil Nadu: Irular kids who went ‘missing’ for 15 days rescued by police

Activists who actively pursued the case, alleged negligence and indifference of the District Child Protection Office (DCPO) in providing protection to the children.
Tamil Nadu: Irular kids who went ‘missing’ for 15 days rescued by police
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Eight Irular children of a family were rescued by the Sriperumbudur police in Kanchipuram on Friday, March 8. The children who lost their mother went “missing” for nearly 15 days, leading to a campaign by activists and members of the Irular community. 

Among the rescued children, while the eldest was 14-years-old, the youngest was one-year-old. The minors were residents of Thirumangai Aalwar Kulakkarai Street, Sriperumbudur. Activists who made efforts to find the ‘missing’ children, allege negligence and indifference of the District Child Protection Office (DCPO) in the case.  

Last year in October, Lakshmi, the mother, belonging to the Irular community (categorised as Scheduled Tribes) passed away. Lakshmi was married to Sekhar from the Mudaliar community. According to Aran, an NGO working for the welfare of the Irular community, Sekhar did not take care of the children following the death of his wife.  The children were forced into doing domestic work in the neighbourhood to feed themselves. Subsequently, the NGO approached the DCPO asking them to take the children under their care.

Following the intervention of the DCPO in November last year, they were housed in a government shelter home. But the children escaped from the facility and went back to their village within two days. 

When Aran tried to convince the children to get back to the shelter home, a few residents of Thirumangai Aalwar Kulakkarai for whom the children were working assured the activists that they would take care of the children. Activists from Aran alleged that the officials from DCPO failed to persuade the residents against it.

The local councillor Nirmala Mahesh also promised that she would act as the caretaker of the children, and also enrol them in government schools.

However, to their shock, on February 23, activists from Aran learnt that the children were “missing.” 

Initially, when the activists enquired about the children’s whereabouts, the councillor claimed that the children went to Mahabalipuram to attend the Masi Magam carnival. “We waited for another week, but they did not return. Later we approached DCPO, but they remained indifferent,” alleged Balaprakash, a volunteer from Aran. 

Slamming the DCPO officials, child rights activist Devaneyan said, “How could the officials allow a random person to take care of the children? It is a violation of the juvenile justice act. If the father could not provide parental care the government should have taken proactive steps to provide them care in a government facility.”

On Thursday, March 7, Aran volunteers approached the police to find the missing children. A day later, police found the children in Mahabalipuram which is 64 km away. 

Speaking to TNM, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Sriperumbudur, Udayakumar said,“We will conduct a detailed inquiry into the incident. Based on what their relatives say, we would consider sending them to government shelter,” he said. 

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