A British woman who set up an orphanage in India has been imprisoned for the death of a girl who disappeared while on a picnic, even though her body has never been found.
Narges Ashtari, 28, launched an orphanage six years ago because she wanted to improve children’s lives. However, when a child disappeared two years ago, and was suspected to have drowned, she was accused of manslaughter.
The woman has now been jailed for 12 months as well as being ordered to pay £3,500 by a magistrates court in Rayagada. However, she is understood to intend to appeal. A close friend said: “She is very upset, very, very upset. I could not talk to her at all she was crying non-stop. She is completely devastated and was not expecting it at all.”
Originally from Iran, Ms Ashtari grew up in Exeter in Devon. Her parents both died when she was young and she was inspired to help other orphans. She set up the Prishan Foundation, named after another little orphan she met, and went on to build both an orphanage for girls and a home for blind children in Odisha.
Two years ago, a picnic was organised by a river for workers, parents and children, and the little girl disappeared. The child’s mother and other witnesses gave evidence about her disappearance.
However, Ms Ashtari says she was the victim of people who wanted to extort cash from her and were determined to destroy her good work. She says she had nothing to do with girl’s disappearance and that she is actually the victim of corruption.
An online campaign has now been set up to urge Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take action to help her. Ms Ashtari is asking supporters to swell the number of names on an online petition. She said that she felt betrayed, having worked so hard to make a positive difference in the area.