Fourteen HIV-positive children, staying at a non-profit organisation-run shelter in Chhattisgarh’s Bilaspur city, were on Monday allegedly dragged out of the facility by the police and district officials, who claimed they had orders to close it, NDTV reported. The shelter housed inmates between the ages of four and 18.
CCTV footage from the shelter showed policemen pushing a woman against the wall. According to NDTV, the woman is a lawyer who is fighting against moving the children to a different shelter home. The police claimed that the woman picked up a fight with the officials who had gone to close down the place.
A woman official at the shelter home was also allegedly manhandled when she asked the officials for a copy of the order to close the place. The officials allegedly refused to give her the document and began dragging the children out.
Videos shot by onlookers and accessed by The Times of India showed the shelter’s inmates being dragged by their hair and pushed into vehicles parked outside. The inmates’ masks, jewellery and hair ties were seen scattered on the ground.
Bilaspur Superintendent of Police Prashant Agrawal denied that the officials had used force on the children. “The officials acted as per the orders of the collector,” he told NDTV. “It was the lawyer Priyanka Shukla who got into a brawl with the officials, who suffered bruises. Shukla was arrested on a complaint by Women and Child Welfare Officer Parvati Verma.”
The director of the organisation running the shelter told NDTV that the facility was the only place being run by a non-profit for HIV-positive children in Chhattisgarh. The official said that he had asked the Women and Child Development department for a grant since the shelter’s monthly expenditure was high. He alleged that some officials demanded a commission from the grant. When he refused, they pointed out certain discrepancies in the shelter’s functioning, recommended that the shelter’s license be cancelled and the inmates be moved to a different facility.
The states’s Women and Child Development Secretary R Prasanna, on the other hand, claimed that the shelter’s director had expressed his inability to run the place. “Based on that, the district-level team went to inspection, following which the then Collector Sanjay Alung cancelled its [the shelter’s recognition] last year,” he told The Times of India.
After Bilaspur’s child development committee recommended cancelling the shelter’s license, the non-profit running it approached the Chhattisgarh High Court for relief. The court, then ordered, the collector to make a decision in the case. The director ordered officials to shift the shelter’s inmates in March this year.