Twenty 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.The civil administration and the 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 a case under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act has been registered in this connection, the police said.
Thomas, however, denied all charges of any wrongdoing at the centre.
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.
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 was operating for several years. It was linked to an NGO which, however, de-linked it a few days ago.
“Officials seized some items from the orphanage. The rescued children are being given medical treatment and counselling,” he said.
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#SpeakUp || Orphanage Horror surfaced in Kathua : Kids rescued from illegal institute complain of Torture, abuse by FatherAs per reports, acting on the complaints of locals, a team of district administration along with police reached on the spot and raided the 'illegal' orphan home while rescued 22 children (8 girls and 12 boys) from the illegal home which was being reportedly run illegally for last 4 years."The man who was running the illegal orphanage home hailing from Kerala namely Antony (70) has been detained while his wife has gone to Kerala and could not be arrested", said sources, adding that the rescued children have been shifted to Nari Niketan and Baal Ashram.Police further said father Thomas Antony told us that he had been running the orphanage in liaison with Pentecostal Mission in Pathankot.
Posted by SpeakUp on Saturday, September 8, 2018
He said the pastor’s wife has gone to Kerala in view of the floods there and will return in a few days.
Assistant Commissioner Revenue, Kathua, Jitender Mishra, who led the joint raid, said the raid 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 for running the centre during the raid, Mr Mishra said, 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.