Child rights activist and theatre personality Zulfiqar Khan has been arrested by police in Chandigarh for allegedly having "unnatural sex" with several people, including minor children, associated with his NGO, officials said on Sunday.
Khan is the director of Theatre Age, a non-governmental organisation that trains underprivileged children in fine art and theatre. The NGO has about 50 children enrolled for its programmes.
Inspector general of police RP Upadhyaya confirmed the arrest. Narender Patial, the station house officer of Sector 11, said some of those who were allegedly abused by Khan are minors while others are adults who were exploited for years.
Khan was arrested from his office in Sector 24 on Saturday and booked under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that relates to carnal intercourse against the order of nature. He was also booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).
Police said they acted after Khan's former partner, Kanwarpal, filed a complaint with a photo that purportedly showed the activist in a compromising position with a child.
Kanwarpal alleged: “I studied and worked with Zulfiqar Khan ever since Theatre Age was formed. In 2013, I saw Zulfiqar indulging in unnatural sex with children.
“I was shocked and questioned him about this, following which I was thrown out (of the NGO). I did not complain to anybody at that time as I had no evidence. Then I talked to children and also got pictures of Zulfiqar indulging in the crime with children,” he further alleged.
Police officials said an investigation found the allegations against Khan to be true, following which he was arrested.
Officials said they spoke to several children enrolled with the NGO, who told them Khan had allegedly been exploiting people associated with Theatre Age for years. Four complainants recorded their statements in the presence of a magistrate, they added.
They said more complaints had come in following Khan's arrest and that some children were coming forward to speak about their alleged exploitation "without any fear". They added they were also probing the role of others who could have been involved in the alleged exploitation.
Khan, who is married and has a 14-year-old son, will be produced in court on Sunday.
A complaint about the alleged abuse was also sent to Devi Sirohi, head of the Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights, which is looking into the matter.
Career as a philanthropist
Khan founded Theatre Age in 1992 to show "a meaningful path to children". In 1993, his play at Tagore Theatre won acclaim and he later won a best creative artiste award from Chandigarh’s administration.
In 2007, Khan was awarded the prestigious Tara Chand Saboo Excellence Award for his contribution to the welfare of underprivileged children by the then UT governor. He was also awarded the Bharat Muni Award for his contributions to theatre.
Khan has directed more than 42 plays with slum children and worked with prisoners for a play that depicted national relationships. He also worked with women of villages in Haryana under an UNFPA project.
Shame came on birthday
Khan was arrested on Saturday, when he celebrated his 45th birthday. His Facebook wall was full of wishes as he enjoyed a good reputation.
The Facebook page has photos depicting him with senior administration officials and renowned politicians. Khan used to request people to donate newspapers, books and other useful items for children. He also uploaded the Class 10 and Class 12 results of children associated with his NGO.