As many as 19 children, including eight girls, were rescued from an unregistered orphanage in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district during a raid and a pastor, who run the orphange has been arrested, officials said on Saturday.
On Friday, the civil administration and police conducted the raid following complains by some children that they were being “harassed and tortured” at the facility, which was run by a pastor from Kerala.
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Senior Superintendent of Police, Kathua, Shridhar Patil said that the rescue operation was conducted based on a complaint and further investigation was on and said that the orphanage had been operating for several years.
‘Officials seized some items from the orphanage. The rescued children are being given medical treatment and counselling,” Patil added.
The children, aged 5 to 16, have been shifted to government-run Bal Ashram and Nari Neketan, the officials said, adding they belong to different parts of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu.
Accused Antony Thomas had been arrested and booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act in the connection.
Thomas, however, denied all charges of any wrongdoing at the orphanage and said a total of 21 children were staying at the asylum and two of them had gone to their native place to attend a marriage.
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Assistant Commissioner Revenue, Kathua, Jitender Mishra, who led the joint raid, said that Thomas failed to produce any document for running the centre during the rai, adding the motive behind operating the facility is under investigation.
Meanwhile, a group of Rashtriya Bajrang Dal activists on Saturday protested outside the Press Club in Jammu, seeking severe punishment to the accused. They also set ablaze an effigy of the pastor.
(With PTI inputs)