Police have started investigations to ascertain claims by a minor that two more children are being held by the accomplice of a shepherd who had also bought him before being rescued recently, investigators said on Sunday.
12 year-old Sumit was rescued by police on Friday from the shepherd from Rajasthan who was also arrested.
Sumit, and his brother Amit, 11 , were allegedly sold by their parents for Rs 35,000 to the arrested shepherd, who had engaged them in menial jobs including looking after his herd.
Another boy Mohit, 15, from the same village in Khargone, was also sold by his parents for Rs 12000 to Bhura nearly a month ago, highlighting extreme steps taken by farmers burdened with heavy debts and crop losses.
Fed up by the constant beatings of the shepherd, Amit and Mohit had fled and run 47 km before being found by police who took them to a shelter home. Sumit was also rescued the next day.
Assistant sub-inspector of police Bhagwanpura Dinesh Singh Kushwaha said that during questioning Sumit revealed that two tribal children — Ramesh and Dheeraj — from Chiriya Mundiya village near Maharashtra border were still with Hemla, accomplice of the arrested Bhura.
Sumit also told police that there was a third child —Samir —from the district who was working for the shepherd, but he returned to his native place Mohanpura four months ago.
“We have intimated our superiors about these new developments. We are investigating the claims made by the children and might soon send a team to Harda or inform Harda police on raiding the camps of Rajasthani shepherds to rescue two tribal children, if they are with Hemla or any other shepherd,” Kushwaha told HT over phone.
“We are probing the matter and will soon start operations,” he added.
Harda superintendent of police Harda Prem Babu Sharma said that he had not yet been communicated about the new developments but added that police was searching for shepherd Hemla.
"We will speak to the Khargone SP and jointly probe this matter about two tribal children claimed to be still with the shepherd," he said.
The three children's statements were recorded by police on Sunday morning.
(Children’s names changed)