Other States

9 minors rescued from Muzaffarnagar ashram, 2 arrested

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Representational Image   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Nine minors have been rescued from an ashram in the Shukrataal area of Muzaffarnagar, of whom four were found to be sexually abused. The police said an FIR has been registered and two people, including a self-styled priest and manager of the ashram, have been arrested.

Sanjeev Kumar, Station House Officer, Bhopa, said the police acted on Tuesday after getting a call from CHILDLINE India Foundation. “Ten children from the north-eastern States were rescued from the Godia Math in Bhopa area on July 7 during a raid on the ashram. They were presented before the Child Welfare Committee, Muzaffarnagar, which directed a medical examination”. Of the 10 children rescued in all, one was aged 18 and the rest in the age group of 8-16, he said.

After the medical report confirmed sexual abuse of four children, and physical and mental abuse of the others, an FIR was registered on Thursday against the ashram manager Bhaktibhushan Govind Maharaj and one unidentified person under Sections 323, 377 and 504 of the IPC and Sections 5f and 6 of the POCSO Act, 2012.

Rakhi Devi, local coordinator of CHILDLINE, said she acted after a tip-off from the Delhi office. “When we went to check the complaint, we found a child carrying a cylinder on his head and another testing the visitors with a thermometer and offering sanitiser,” she said.

“When we told them that this was not their job, they tried to defend their actions. We contacted the manager. He said the children were adopted by him. When we asked for the papers, he got aggressive. We tried to engage him in a conversation and in the meantime called the police,” Ms. Rakhi said.

The CHILDLINE coordinator said the children were from Tripura and Mizoram and some of them had been at the ashram for three-four years. “They could converse in Hindi. They narrated their ordeal. They were asked to tend cows and as the ashram is under construction, also used as labour.”

Ms. Rakhi added that their parents were told that the ashram was a place for education and building personality.

Kamlesh Verma, chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee, said all the children complained of sexual abuse and beating. “Their statements were recorded in front of a magistrate under Section 164 of the CrPC. They said they were shown objectionable videos, made to drink liquor and beaten up if they objected.”

Ms. Verma said the committee also spoke to the the ashram manager and he claimed he had papers to show that the children were brought with their parents’ consent. “He said liquor was prohibited in the ashram and raised questions on the food habits of the children. We have relied on the medical report but I feel the case should be properly investigated,” she said.

The CWC was in touch with their counterparts in the Northeast and would try to rehabilitate the children as soon as possible. “Right now, we are waiting for the COVID-19 reports of the children and the administration has kept them in isolation in a local school,” said Ms. Verma.


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Printable version | Aug 10, 2020 12:13:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/minors-rescued-from-muzaffarnagar-ashram/article32041866.ece

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