Days after a team of Jharkhand Police arrested Satyendra Prakash Musa (58) for allegedly running an illegal children’s shelter home in Phullanwal of Ludhiana and converting children to Christianity, the police have managed to locate 20 out of 30 “missing” children with their families in Jharkhand. The Jharkhand Police have also arrested Junal Longa, resident of village Seengda of Chaibasa who allegedly was the middleman and used to get tribal children to the shelter home in Ludhiana after luring their parents with promise of their proper education and upbringing.
Musa told Jharkhand police that he was running Packiam Mercy Cross Trust under which the children’s home was being run for the last 12 years. He said he was running home for poor children in memory of his second wife’s mother ‘Mercy’.
Meanwhile, the Ludhiana police have filed a separate FIR against Musa at Sadar police station under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act on the complaint of district child protection officer as the home was not having mandatory registration under the Act.
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, G Kranthi Kumar, superintendent of police (SP), West Singhbhum, Jharkhand, said, “Of the 30 children from Jharkhand who were allegedly trafficked to Ludhiana, we have located 20 and they are safe with their families. Our teams are doing physical verification of each one of them and going to their homes to check if they have reached their actual parents. We are also taking photographs for our record. Till now, physical verification of 16 has been completed.”
He said there was no evidence so far of any physical torture or sexual exploitation of children. “They were not being ill-treated or sexually exploited. They were being sent to a regular school but also being taught Bible and other Christian texts. All the children are from Sarna adivasi tribe which follows its own religious practices in Naxal-hit district of West Singhbhum. But yes, there were no proper facilities at the shelter home. Parents have told that for the last one year, they haven’t spoken to their children. Parents were also unaware that children were being taught Christian text. They used to call middleman Longa to enquire about them, but he never made parents speak to children. We have arrested him too.”
Asked about 10 other children still “missing”, the officer said, “Their records, including names and addresses, are being procured from Ludhiana by one of our officers who is on the way. Once he reaches, we will verify.”
Musa has been sent in judicial remand by the court, the SP said.
The shelter home was sealed on August 20 by Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Ludhiana and only eight children (four each from Jharkhand and Bihar) were rescued. Musa claimed handing over 30 others to their families in Jharkhand which police is verifying now. Musa was served a notice on July 31 by CWC Ludhiana to get the home registered, but he failed to do so.
Two FIRs, same offence; police confused
Both Ludhiana and West Singhbhum polices have booked Musa under section 42 of Juvenile Justice Act, which calls for imprisonment extending to one year or fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh or both if a shelter home for children (government or private) is not registered under the Act.
Earlier, on August 26, the Jharkand Police had filed FIR at Chaibasa Sadar police station against Musa and his accomplice Longa under the section 4 of Jharkhand Religious Freedom Act 2017, Section 42 of the Juvenile Justice Act, Section 5 of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act and Section 370 (Trafficking of Persons) of IPC. He was arrested on August 28 and taken to Jharkhand.
While the shelter home is located in Ludhiana, children were from Jharkhand leading to complaints from child welfare committees (CWCs) of both districts filing police complaint. Ludhiana police commissioner Sukhchain Singh Gill said that since a complaint was received from CWC, they had to file FIR despite Jharkhand Police also registering the same. “If contents of both FIRs are same, we might merge both,” he said.
The SP from Jharkhand said, “Ludhiana might have registered FIR as per their evidence found during probe. Since home’s location is in Ludhiana, they did at their own level. Children are ours, so we had to file it.”