Women at the Moses Ministries orphanage, which is under threat as a result of legal action brought against it, have issued a passionate appeal in defence of the organisation set up by Rev Gideon Jacob.
The Moses Ministries orphanage in Tiruchy, Madras, is an initiative of the Christian Initiative for India, founded in Hamburg by Jacob in 1989. It houses 89 young women who have spent their lives there and is run by Jacob and his wife, who regard them as their "daughters".
The orphanage is set to be taken over by local authorities after a court said it was in breach of various regulations. In an interview with Christian Today, Jacob, who is pastor of the Good Shepherd World Prayer Centre in Tiruchy, Tamil Nadu, denied all the charges and said they were motivated by a Hindu nationalist agenda.
The women have written to India's National Human Rights Commission in Delhi and other bodies highlighting their case.
They point to the prevalence of female infanticide in Tamil Nadu in the 1990s, when they were brought to the orphanage. Girl children were poisoned or drowned because they were regarded as a burden to their families. The women say: "Through the sacrificial efforts of Pastor Gideon Jacob and his team, 89 of us were saved."
They continue: "We were mostly brought to this home soon after birth by our own parents, friends, relatives etc. under some false pretext and laid in one of the cradles that were there in front of that house. Almost all of us were brought to this home in the very early initial hours of our lives."
They say that in contrast to previous inspections where the home was highly praised, "a rude and threatening" inspection in September 2014 identified various issues that needed to be address for the home to qualify for permanent registration as a registered orphanage. All of these works were carried out.
However, on September 3, the women say a team of around 30 people from local child protection services arrived at the property in what they say was "a hugely intimidating encounter" and urged to leave the home. "However, none of us wanted to leave our home that has housed us for almost 18 years of our lives," they say.
Two days later a large contingent of police officers appeared at the orphanage compound. The women were told that this was to protect them from the RSS – an extreme Hindu nationalist movement – whose members wanted to abduct them.
In their statement the women flatly denied lurid claims that they they had been sexually abused, describing them as "nothing but rubbish born in the minds of men who can only see women as sex-objects".
In a passionate plea for help, they say that the actions of the authorities are "threating to damage our lives and future completely. How can we live in this Indian society with dignity if such scandalous, vicious and blatant lies are spread against us and our lives at this early age? Will anyone marry us in future if we are suspected of abhorrent sexual abuse? Is there anyone here in this nation to protect our self-respect and dignity as women?"