At a time when sexual exploitation of minor girls at shelter homes in Bihar has grabbed headlines, a Buddhist monk running a meditation centre at Bodhgaya was arrested for allegedly sexually abusing 15 child monks.
The accused monk, Bhante Shanghpriya, was remanded in 14-day judicial custody on Thursday and the statement of the victims was recorded before a judicial magistrate. A Special Investigation Team headed by the Bodhgaya DSP has been formed to probe the case, said Gaya SP Rajeev Mishra.
The International Buddhist Council (IBC) has strongly condemned the incident and demanded a probe into the matter. “We demand a thorough probe… the organisation running the monastery was not registered with the IBC,” said the council’s general secretary, Pragya Deep, after an emergency meeting at Bodhgaya.
Sources told The Hindu that of the 160 monasteries running in Bodhgaya, only 55 are registered with the IBC. “The police are investigating details of the trust running the monastery and if any fraud is found, an FIR will be lodged against all members of the trust,” said Mr. Mishra. The school-cum-meditation centre is managed by Prajana Social Welfare Trust.
On Wednesday, all 15 child monks, aged seven to 12, and their parents had complained to the Bodhgaya police about alleged sexual abuse by Sanghpriya. The police swung into action and arrested the accused monk.
Later, an FIR was lodged with the Bodh Gaya police under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. “The child monks complained about their physical and sexual abuse by their head monk. They also informed us that they were thrashed, mistreated in the school. We are investigating the matter now,” DSP Rajkumar Shah said. A board of doctors has been set up to examine the victims.
All the child monks are from Karbi Anglong district of Assam. The incident came to light when one child rang up a former teacher who was in Mumbai and narrated their ordeal. The teacher from Assam knew the parents of the victims and informed them about their trauma. The parents reached Bodhgaya and took them to the police station.