19 Kids Rescued from Kathua Orphanage After ‘Torture’ Complaints
The facility was being run by a pastor, who has been arrested and booked under the POCSO Act.
Nineteen children, including eight girls, have been rescued from an unregistered orphanage in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua district during a raid, officials said on Saturday, 8 September, reported PTI.
The civil administration and police conducted the raid on Friday after some children complained that they were being "harassed and tortured" at the facility run by a pastor from Kerala.
Antony Thomas has been arrested and booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act in this connection, they said.
An FIR has been lodged against him. He was claiming he’s affiliated with some church in Pathankot. When our officers enquired from the Pathankot church, they denied it.Kathua deputy commissioner Rohit Khajuria, as quoted by ANI
A local court has sent 62-year-old Anthony to seven days police custody, reported Hindustan Times.
Thomas, however, has denied all charges of any wrongdoing at the centre.
"A total of 21 children are staying at the asylum. Two of them have gone to their native place – Pathankot (Punjab) – to attend a marriage,” he told reporters before being whisked away by police.
‘Children Were Confined to a Cellar’
The children, aged between 5 and 16, have been shifted to government-run Bal Ashram and Nari Niketan, the officials said, adding they belong to different parts of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu.
Revealing that the children were being confined to a cellar at the orphanage, Kathua deputy commissioner Rohit Khajuria was quoted by the Hindustan Times report as saying:
The medical examination of the rescued children... was conducted at the Kathua district hospital late Friday night. Their medical reports are awaited... All the children were found to be suffering from scabies and we have given them new clothes.Kathua deputy commissioner Rohit Khajuria
Senior Superintendent of Police, Kathua, Shridhar Patil said, “The rescue operation was conducted based on a complaint and further investigation is on.”
He said the orphanage had been operating for several years. It was linked to an NGO which, however, de-linked it a few days ago.
The officials seized also some items from the orphanage. The rescued children are being given medical treatment and counselling, he said.
Meanwhile, the pastor's wife has gone to Kerala in view of the floods there and will return in a few days, reported PTI.
Assistant Commissioner Revenue, Kathua, Jitender Mishra, who led the joint raid, said it was conducted on the directions of the Kathua deputy commissioner after he received several complaints alleging the children were being "harassed and tortured" at the orphanage.
Family members of the children are being contacted, he said.
Thomas failed to produce any document related to the centre during the raid, Mishra said, adding the motive behind operating the facility is under investigation.
Meanwhile, a group of Rashtriya Bajrang Dal activists protested outside the Press Club in Jammu on Saturday, seeking severe punishment to the accused. They also set ablaze an effigy of the pastor.
(With inputs from PTI, ANI and Hindustan Times.)
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