Fifty seven of the 60 children who were rescued from Ratlam railway station on Sunday night were handed over to their parents on Tuesday after nine persons escorting them to Nagpur were booked for ‘religious conversion’ and kidnapping by the government railway police (GRP).
The minors were made to alight from a train at Ratlam railway station by the railway protection force after authorities received complaints about suspicious movements of children.
When questioned, the accused claimed they were taking the tribal children to attend a summer camp in Nagpur but could not furnish any documents to back their claim. The children belong to Jhabua district and are students of different private and government schools.
“The parents were under the impression that the children were going to attend a camp but the purpose of the Nagpur tour was to acquaint them with the Bible. There was a mismatch in the statements given by the accused,” GRP SP Krishnaveni Desavatu told The Indian Express.
Police have booked the nine accused under Sections 3 and 4 of the MP Freedom of Religion Act, 1968, and Sections 363 (punishment for kidnapping) and 34 of the IPC. They were produced before a court on Tuesday and sent to judicial custody.
The in-charge of Ratlam GRP Station, Abhishek Gautam, said teams had been sent to Nagpur and Jhabua to verify the accused’s claim that the children were to attend a summer camp there.
On Sunday night, the Indore Police had arrested two other men–Alpesh Gadva, 27, from Jhabua and Harun Dawar, 20, from Alirajpur-on similar charges of allegedly taking 11 tribal children from Alirajpur to Nagpur for ‘religious conversion’, while making them believe that they are off to a summer camp. The two, arrested on Monday, have been sent to judicial custody on Tuesday. The 11 children are likely to be handed over to their parents on Wednesday.
Ratlam District Women’s Empowerment Officer RK Mishra said parents of 57 children arrived and secured their custody while parents of three children, including a girl, were expected to arrive on Wednesday. The children were produced before the child welfare committee.