This is a news report about The Denjong Pema Choling Academy (DPCA). HELP used to send volunteers to this school in Pemayangse, West Sikkim, but withdrew after receiving reports from the volunteers , and others, about the abuse of children (and of money donated) in this school:-
“A Canadian woman volunteer working in a private school in Sikkim today lodged a complaint with police of Gangtok alleging that the institution’s director and a teacher often beat up the students.
Sara Antwis, 40, said she has recorded video clips of the teacher, Samir Tamang, chasing schoolchildren with a cane and of a student crying and showing his bruises. Corporal punishment is banned in schools.
“I was shocked to see the children are subjected to extreme physical punishment. They are beaten up regularly by the head of the school and a teacher. In two incidents, four students were beaten up,” said Antwis, who taught in Denjong Padma Choling Academy, a CBSE secondary school.
She said she filed the complaint with Gangtok police after the local Tikjuk police station in Pelling took no action. Antwis has named school director Sonam Yongda, and the teacher Samir in her complaint. Yongda said: “It is a lie to malign my image.”
“I lodged a police complaint on June 7. Three of the four children were taken for medical tests. I have a copy of the report that indicates bruises and welts. The (Tikjuk) police ignored my report,” Antwis said, adding that she has also written to the state child welfare commission.” (Gangtok, June 14; source: the Telegraph, Calcutta, India)
Sara Antwis has added the following information in correspondence:
“Yongda is finally going to be arrested for what he has done and I think that members of the Muyal Liang trust will be contacted to explore continuity for the children. I know that Samir Tamang is already under police custody, having been arrested and detained.
If Yongda does not come back to be arrested in Sikkim then, within a few days,police will apprehend him in Delhi and bring him back to stand trial. That is what I know.
There are already plans in place to make sure the children are ok. I can’t share too many details just yet except that the events of the last few days have put all eyes on DPCA and some rather powerful people are stepping in to ensure that this changes things for the better for the abused children.
Some people are considering the school a ‘front” for Yongda to make
money off the backs of the children.”
The Denjong Padma Choeling Academy (DPCA) was founded in 1980 in Pelling by the Muyal Liang Trust. Since its inception, Yapo Sonam Yongda, a National Awardee for Child Welfare, 1989; and the Director of DPCA, along with the faculty has always worked towards nuturing the cause of the under privaledged children, many of whom are orphans, deserted by family and shunned by society. Therefore, it goes without saying that there is no fee structure as such for the education as well as boarding facilities at DPCA.
Since the academy is a charitable instituion it is but obvious that it depends on sponsors for its functioning and like many organisations and institutions like it, there have been few allegations charged at the academy to perturb its aims. However most of these allegations are baseless rumors without any concrete supporting evidences. Inspite of such obstacles, the school has managed to forge ahead in every sphere. The alumini boasts of scientists, government officials, entreprenuers, professors, national athletes above all humble and trustworthy individuals. It would not be out of place to mention here that the alumini still uphold the values, morals and ethics that were instilled in them in DPCA, traits that are hard to come by at this day and age. A fitting example of one such alumini would be Mr. Nima Tashi who has given back to the school selflessly by donating 15 computers.
It is worth mentioning here that DPCA is the only school (probably in the world) that imparts not just the universal method of education but along side follows the teachings of Buddhism. Therefore, it is an assured FACT that the school works towards preserving the dying culture and heritage, that is unique to Sikkim.
To self sustain the school, the family at DPCA have started the Lotus Bakery that serves fresh produce; a small plot for tea plantation; a diary; carpet weaving and a small co-operative for selling fresh organic vegetables. All the funds are utilizied for the upkeep of the school. Furthermore, the school encourages local unemployed youths to develop skills that they otherwise would not have had the opportunity to learn. The children are also encouraged to be self-sufficient and utmost importance is given to understand the importance of the dignity of labour.
A significant percentage of the faculty are selfless volunteers who have devoted their time and effort, inspite of the meagre salaries for the cause of the school.
It is my humble hope that you understand the compassionate grounds on which the school is built and support the organisation with unbiased judgement and love.
My allegations have supportive evidence. there are witnesses, videos, photographs and written statements and I would be more than happy to share the evidence with any organization who would like to help stop Yongda and his sadists from violating these DPCA children in so many ways. The police and child welfare services and the media have seen the evidence and that is why there is going to be an upcoming court case and Yongda , being charges with more than 5 counts of assault applied for anticipatory bail from his delhi home.
I yesterday received an email from Marion Orchinson a 2004. 2005 2006 volunteer to alleges she was threatened by Yongda’s son that he would arrange for her to have a ccar crash. I also found information on the internet posted by a Dave Kelly whosays he was a 2006 volunteer. He says that Yongda has sexual relations with the girl children in their teens and would keep one as a “mistress”.Sadly this has been corroborated by police officers and others who allege it is true.It would appear that he was also misdiverting funds away from the students at that time too if David Kelly is correct in his claims. UNICEF has now been contacted in an attempt to help these children. One of the attackers who made a 4 year old childs back bloody has still not been arrested or questioned despite the child pointing the finger at him. The school is claiming that the four year old “fell” but doctors who have examined the photographs pointed out that these are not injuries from falling.
It would appear that Tenzing Sikkimese is doing his best to do “damage control”. Children do not have to be so grateful for a bed and food that they should be violated by Yongda and other adults!!!! The children themselves have said that DPCA is a bad school and told Child welfare authorities that DPCA will not give them transfer certificates so that they can leave.
India provides free education. However Yongda provides classes without teachers and children sleeping three to a bed in bad sanitary conditions suffering from lice and scabies and untreated pneumonia. Children have been threatened with expulsion (sand transfer slip) if they talk to police and child welfare about the abuses they suffer.
Please do educate yourselves as to what is really going on here and please be skeptical regarding what Tenzing Sikkimese (obviously not his real name) is saying above. The so called unemployed youth actually did not get paid since last October (2012) by Yongda and volunteers have reported that the money goes directly to Yongda (whatever is left after the workers steal some). Bakery workers have reported that there are major ethical concerns regarding the destination of the bakery money which is supposed to be used for the children.
Mr Nima Tashi kept a 2 year old boy with untreated pneumonia in his room and Child welfare authorities examined the child and Yousa Lachempa the law officer from the office of Manita Pradhan (child welfare chairperson) says that child welfare is working on finding this sick neglected boy a permanent family through local adoption. Mr Nima Tashi is also guilty of threatening the children to keep their mouths shut (children said this to police in my presence on 18th June). As a violent man himself who tells children to smack other children in the face if they speak their tribal tongue- Tenzing is not exactly giving us a prime example of a DPCA alumnus with integrity.
The other Nima Tashi has, according to volunteer Evelyn Reb from Germany, been working secretly against Yongda to try to ensure the welfare of the children for years according to Evelyn Reb herself who has even sponsored children to be educated in other institutions but maintains contacts withn the DPCA framework.
Please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you are an ex volunteer or alumnus or victim of Yongda and I will help put you in touch with the officer who is doing the long term inverstigation into past and present DPCA child abuse.
Please even just contact them directly if you don’t wish to go through me.
I was just a science teacher not an activist but abuses against children cannot be ignored. I am sure that Tenzing “Sikkimese” has good intentions and if he would like to see the videographic and photographic evidence and witness testimonies then he needs to have his friend -Sonam Yongda- approach police and request copies for the defence. This is now a legal matter.
ALL accusations are TRUE!
For three months in 2002 I witnessed the flogging and beating of kids,the poor food ,the local teachers not paid for months, the very young girls ‘invited’ to his home (where the volunteers lived:Dave and Andrew,and Johnson the head teacher),sexually abused and beaten when Yapo was drunk – which was often.
Many kids were in bad health and not looked after.I myself took a few to the hospital.
The library was shut. The blankets in the dormitories were only put on the beds when there were visitors. The buddhism allegedly taught at DPCA is a repetition of prayers mornings before school starts.
One volunteer Yapo had asked to make a computer programme for his fund raising discovered how the money was transferred to the captain’s son or to himself!
I’d been hired for 6 months. One morning a police car came and threw me out of the country on Yapo’s demand most certainly: I’d opened my mouth too much being 46 years old, socially motivated and a professional teacher who’d taken a six-month leave from my school in Geneva,Switzerland.
I’ve felt bad about not denouncing all this and am very happy it’s done now. But Yapo’s world is like our Middle Ages used to be: the lord has all
the rights. I’d be extremely surprised if he did not get away with it…
Don’t forget he HATES India and never accepted that Sikkim should be part of it.
I would just like to mention Jim, that there were many other reports of the abuses made to the police at Tikjuk but those who claim to have reported the crimes were told theats their case was weak. I have received emails over the last 24 hours from ex volunteers who say they directly witnessed Yapo Yongda the director of DPCA school keeping female children for sexual purposes and getting drunk and beating them. The ex volunteers (2006) who allege these things did write about them in blogs back in 2006. I don’t know why these reports were ignored. However I am told by witnesses that they went to the police and that they were eventually forced out of Sikkim or left.I have forwarded this most recent information to the Sikkim authorities and the media and UNICEF and Amnesty in the hope that some organization will intervene. I have also made an appeal with the DPCA alumni association to meet with me to resolve the current health and welfare situation of the DPCA students through the CHild Welfare Commission in Gangtok who may be able to offer assistance.
I am astounded that what started off for me as just witnessing two crimes has ended up with me getting so much information, evidence and witness testimony.I really hope that Yongda will not be allowed to continue in his role as director of DPCA. I hope the people of Sikkim and the Pemayangtse Monastery are ashamed of him. I just don’t “get’ how he managed to get away with it for so long in this present anti trafficking political climate and in the wake of the Delhi rapes.
Everyone told me how powerful Ex Captain Yongda was. I have been told about past issues whereby people who opposed child mistreatment received death threats and were accused of things like stealing etcetera.I have heard first hand accounts from volunteers of them having been detained at the border or deported etc for opposing the abuse and making police reports.
I guess now it’s my turn. I was really surprised that the principal of DPCA is now accusing me of kidnapping or attempted kidnapping.
I met him last week and told him that the parents of one senior wanted to speak to their daughter regarding a change of school.He said that they would have to call him first. Of course I took the number and passed it to the parents via phone through a translator. The parents were intimidated and cancelled the sponsorship. They said that the principal refused to release their daughter from the DPCA.
I went to Gangtok and met up with The Child Welfare Commission and The Secretary of State Rinchen Ongmu. I basicaly moved on and tried to work for some improvement of conditions.
Suddenly I received an email saying that I have been accused by the principal of “attempted kidnapping”. This has come out of the blue.
I have also been getting nasty emails from the DPCA alumni trying to make me drop my witness testimony.
Maybe I am naive to be surprised but this was so unexpected. I cannot emphasize hard enough how important it is for volunteer teachers not to get involved with the DPCA at this point.
I have been told that funding for DPCA from the government has been put on hold and that the child welfare commission are trying to set up a meeting with the sons of Yongda in order to provide them with an ultimatum regarding school conditions. I have been told that money will be provided to DPCA only if the Muyal Liang trust expands to include members for many sectors of society such as social services. I am happy with the result provided the Child Welfare Commission truly follows through on their intended actions.
This is kind of thing (abuse, corruption, etc.) is happening all around the developing world and actually…(it happens in the developed world too by the way). It’s pretty normal and it’s deplorable. However, if it is not dealt with by the indigenous/local people, it will simply look better for a little while and then return to the way it was. Can we agree on that? (yes, and why is that?)
The local outpouring of support for the Captain (facebook:voice of sikkim, etc.) by alumni and community leaders is to be expected. Everyone is “circling the wagons,” so to speak because no one wants an indigenous person to be criticized, to be looked down upon BY A FOREIGNER. We had enough of that with the British. The first local reaction is…”go back and help your own people instead of trying to liberate ours…” Who is this person? Doesn’t she have a cause closer to her own home that she can “help” with? What about Bihar…can she help in Bihar? Corporal JUST became illegal two years ago…where else have they implemented perfectly? Perhaps we take longer to learn new things than they do in the west. The British beat us soundly, using all different kinds of canes…it will take us time to change our ways.
Here’s a thought: If you are the one responsible for the destruction of an institution, which, in this case…with all its tragedy, has also been a force of good, of something to those who had nothing (this does not justify the man made tragedy, but it does acknowledge that it is not black and white), please start fundraising now so that you can support these children when the Captain leaves (should that happen). You are taking this project on as your life’s work…and that is totally commendable. But don’t just create a hue and cry, destroy the institution, shame the people and then return to your own country feeling like you have saved lives and changed the world. You haven’t. The kind of change you and the other volunteers (and perhaps organizations like this one) want to enact…requires a serious investment of time, energy and LIFE…a few months, a few meetings, a few letters simply won’t do it. All that will do is create resentment against the western meddlers riding on high horses and ensure that no foreigners never are allowed to come and volunteer in Sikkim again. Already they have put up signs at Rangpo stating just that. (NO TEACHING AND SOCIAL WORK ON TOURIST VISAS)..and honestly, that was pretty predictable. So where are we? Well, things will go back to normal (eventually) and no more volunteers will ever be allowed to witness the reality…is that the desired end?
So, please see this through to the end: reestablishing the school under your leadership and guidance. Get those outraged former volunteers to ask their parents and grandparents, spouses and friends for funds…say 300 GPB or so per year for five years…mobilize the network so that this work can be about REAL systemic change…not just the expression of self-righteous outrage and the western bourgeoisie need to liberate the savages from themselves.
Sorry to be inflammatory…but there is a reality here that needs to be acknowledged and articulated. There are some locals silently agreeing with Ms. Antwis, but silent because honestly, expecting that this too shall pass.
I am allowing this blog to be a forum for this discussion about the DPCA so that important issues that have an impact on the children can be aired. I would ask all those who want to add their comments to tone down their writing and to simply present their views in a rational and calm manner. The truth usually hides away when people let their anger get the better of them. I will accept any comments, wherever they come from, so long as they are expressed in a reasonable way.
I would also ask contributors to identify the people they are addressing by the second person pronoun ‘you’ (See Paris Oftroy’s comment above)
I should like to put on record that HELP does not send volunteers to the DPCA.
This is a difficult line to tread, since we can never really understand another culture’s ways of working.
I have aimed to take a gentle approach when I see behaviour with which I disagree – simply sharing what happens in my culture or how people from my culture sometimes think about such things. “In my country…”
I hope that in this way I can raise awareness that there are other ways of viewing behaviour/issues, whilst not judging situations where I don’t know the full story and only have a limited understanding of the culture & society.
It is up to locals to take action to make changes in their own societies. We can only offer to widen their viewpoint by sharing ours.
There was an interesting article in National Geographic about the issues around marrying daughters at an early age, that discussed the local’s reasons for this practise – reasons not understood by the well-meaning outsiders who try to rescue such girls.
Granted, child abuse is quite an extreme situation, but foreigners who get involved without knowing the invisible web of social complexity that exists around the issue do run the risk of making the situation worse when their intention was to help.
Sikkim State Police have offered police protection for witnesses and have called another witness to Yapo Yongda’s criminal trial- Megan Johnson from the UK one of the many witnesses. The next date for appearance is set for 3-4 weeks time (April 2014). So, as usual this is a very low amount of notice give someone fromthe UK or Canada to get papaerwork sorted.It would hardly be enough time to even get a visa sorted or an inner line permit.The police couldn’t even say what kind of entry visa would be needed.
Still awaiting explanations from Officer Sonam Bhutia about the family member of Yongda being a magistrate at the court. The police say it’s normal for him not to be named on any documents.
No news about what’s happening over the whip /slash marks on Mingma’s back or whether police are just leaving him in that situation at the DPCA school. This is a 4-5 year old child and the police saw whip marks on his back when child welfare from Gangtok made a surprise visit to the school last year.
Still not sure what to do about this because the Sikkim police are not very forthcoming and when I emailed saying I wanted to help them if I could but that money was an issue (meaning that I would have to save up a while if I was to go over to give evidence) they appeared to think that I was trying to find them. This is would be hilarious under other circumstanced but it really isn’t funny how they seem so determined to fly loose and fast with accusations that they pull out of thin air.
Considering that this is their case using their laws and THEY chose to prosecute Yongda they are very uncooperative to say the least.
If any of the other people like Rick from Australia or Jana from Slovenia is reading this or Benny and Ben who found the first slashes on Mingma’s back, the time to come forward is now.
I cannot believe that out of so very many witnesses only two of us have had the guts to come forward.
If anyone thinks it’s a problem to report this child abuse or criticize Yongda and Samir Tamang then i’d like to remind them that these laws are INDIAN laws not western laws. It would be especially good to hear from jana as Jana witnessed Samir trying to starve the children and witholding food for hours AND she saw Yapo Yongda’s violence first hand.
Of course these two aren’t the only violent individuals at DPCA. Sophie from Australia also had to protect a kindergarten boy from a cleaner whacking him several times with a big stick. The kids are made to kneel on hard floors for hours on end by a female teacher. The Samir Tamang and Ex captain Sonam (Yapo) Yongda crimes are just the tip of the iceberg.
UPDATE: Going to Sikkim to give evidence against Sonam Yongda
I have received an email from Mr Yang (who worked for Yongda) a man who witnessed Yongda’s violence first hand but who was a “hostile witness”. He asked me (IN AN EMAIL)why I would risk my life advocating for these children when Yongda is so powerful and the children have been “groomed” not to give accurate testimony against Yongda.I’d love to repeat the whole email here but i’m not sure if that would be allowed.
Mr Yang told me NOT to go back to Sikkim.
Having spoken with friends and colleagues I think this is actually necessary; especially if a “friend/ex teacher” of Ex Captain Sonam Yongda is actually emailing and telling me to stay away for my own good. That tells me that maybe something can be done by going there. I’m just now waiting for a court date (with 3 months notice) and some written guarantees of my freedom of movement by the Indian government and Sikkim State police.
I have also had communications from locals in Sikkim who say that there is now a sign up at the school forbidding foreigners to enter. I do not know if this is true. Other people in Sikkim have, apparently, been trying to get something done about the abuse of these children through legal channels in Gangtok. It’s good to know that there are a few of us out there who care about these DPCA children.
Once again i’m appealing to anyone who has information from the past to please write up a statement and mail it to the director general of Sikkim police, Jasvir Singh so that a wider inquiry can be opened up against Ex captain Sonam Yongda- the DPCA director.
There is a lot happening behind the scenes in this story and hopefully more people over time will have the courage to come forward and tell the truth. Sadly Mr Yang was too scared, although I and the police have encouraged him to do so.
I have just (April 20th) received an email from a woman saying she was a volunteer at the DPCA in 2001. An excerpt from her email reads as follows:
I got your contact information here: new.help-education.org/scandal-at-the-denjong-pema-choling-academy/ from googling the name of the school. I am a former volunteer at DPCA from April/May 2001. I lived in the senior girls hostel and volunteered as an English teacher and hostel warden.
I witnessed many abuses — Yapo Yongda taking girls back to his monastery to engage in sexual relations, beatings, and money embezzling. I tried to take action upon my return and was unsuccessful in getting changes to happen. But my understanding was that Yapo was no longer in charge of the school. Is he still around? I recently got in touch with some of the girls on Facebook and we’ve been catching up.
Please send more information about anything I might be able to do to support the children of DPCA. I’m happy to provide more information about what I observed. ”
I have forwarded her email with the following note to the Sikkim Director General of Police Jasvir Singh and to Officer Sonam Bhutia of Geyzing and to Sikkim Child Welfare and the Sikkim Express in the hope thataction will be taken to look more deeply into these alleged offences:
“Dear DGP Jasvir Singh and Officer Bhutia,
I just received the email below from a Sara Krakauer out of the blue.
She says that she witnessed abuses in 2001 and that she wants to do something
What can she do? Clearly a much larger inquiry into the happenings at the DPCA
school is required because similar statements were made also by a Muriel Akerib
on the Himalayan Education Help site too. I also spoke with two officers who currently
are veteran SP officers in Gangtok who also alleged that sexual abuse charges were brushed under the carpet in 2001.
I think that what with all these allegations and ex volunteers coming forward with new evidence it is important to open up a wider inquiry to get to the bottom of all this, because these are pretty
serious allegations and if they are true then a lot of DPCA children have suffered and deserve justice .
Out of concern that all these witness statements may not come to light I am cc-ing this email to a few concerned agencies, including Sikkim Child Welfare and the Sikkim Express in the hope that something will be done to contact and obtain statements from witnesses as far back as 2001 and possibly beyond.
I think it would be important for SP to compile a list of alleged ex volunteers who wish to give statements and find out who were the alleged victims and question them. Maybe they could get some sort of reparation if the alleged offences can be corroborated.
I would think that Sara Krauker should perhaps be writing and notarizing a statement and mailing it to the DGP by registered mail, for a start. I would think that other witnesses should be doing the same thing and perhaps a wider inquiry can be initiated.”
Myself, I am awaiting an advance notice court date to appear to give evidence regarding Yongda’s violent child abuse and the attack by a teacher Samir Tamang on some DPCA boys.
I’d rather remain anonymous, and the name isn’t my real name. Nevertheless, a few pointers of my own to add here. The abuses at DPCA are true, including sexual exploitation of girl students by Capt. Yongda. It’s been happening a long time, at least as long back as the early ’90s (the sexual exploitation bit I think started around then). Am shocked to see that its been continuing all this while. In any case, it must be understood that the Bhutia community is pretty much close knit and clannish – even though they may not approve of what’s happening, they wouldn’t want “outsiders” to judge them or interfere in what they might believe to be their family or community issues – hence the ostensible “local support” for Capt. Yongda, and also most likely reason for his sons to be “standing by” him. I also know for a fact that while Capt Yongda’s family then strongly disapproved of his being “involved” with a girl from the DPCA, they believed (at least then, and obviously wrongly so in the light of the accounts in this blog) that it was the girl who had “enticed” him. Of course, none of the other local people believed this. The story going around back then was that Capt. Yongda’s belief (being a “monk”, etc) that an incarnate lama – a Rinpoche – would be born out of the “union”. Obviously a lot of codswallop, probably spread by Capt. Yongda himself. Widespread abuse of the “donations” and other funds received for the DPCA school were even back then being diverted to support Capt. Yongda’s “guest house” at the Pemayangtse Monastery. It probably also helped Capt. Yongda to invest the very minimum possible at the school (to keep it looking run down and the children in terrible conditions, so that visitors (especially foreigners) would feel the need to donate money to what they believed would help the school and the children.
In any case, I’m not too sure of how tenable any action against Capt. Yongda would be, especially if this is confined to a West Sikkim or even a Sikkim jurisdiction. It would probably be useful for someone like Sara Antwis to put together testimonies from all the people she’s heard from corroborating the abuse at DPCA, and send it along to national level agencies in India such as the National Commission for Women (easily googleable) with a request to conduct independent enquiries/investigations, and for that matter, even to the Supreme Court of India, etc. With national level agencies being involved, it is likely to get the local authorities in Sikkim to act more promptly.
This discusson is now closed. No further posts will be approved.
Himalayan Education Lifeline Programme