J&K: 19 children rescued from an unregistered orphanage in Kathua
At least 19 children, including eight girls, have been rescued from an unregistered orphanage in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua district during a raid. The civil administration and police conducted the raid yesterday after some children complained that they were being harassed and tortured at the facility run by a Kerala pastor. Antony Thomas has been arrested and booked under the POCSO Act. Here's more.
Children have been shifted to government-run centers
Thomas, however, has denied all charges. 21 children are staying at the asylum. Two of them have gone to their native place, Pathankot (Punjab), to attend a marriage, Thomas told reporters before being whisked away by the police. The children, aged 5-16, have been shifted to government-run Bal Ashram and Nari Niketan. They belong to different parts of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu.
Orphanage was linked to NGO, which de-linked it recently
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.
Rescued children are being given counseling, treatment
Officials seized some items from the orphanage. The rescued children are being given medical treatment and counseling. Patil 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.
Thomas failed to produce any document for running the center
Family members of the children are being contacted. Thomas failed to produce any document for running the center during the raid, Mishra said, adding the motive behind operating the facility is under investigation. Meanwhile, a group of Rashtriya Bajrang Dal activists today protested outside the Press Club in Jammu, seeking severe punishment to the accused. They also set ablaze an effigy of the pastor.