A day after a 57-year-old Sadhvi and her six accomplices were arrested for child trafficking in south Delhi, a police team was dispatched to Haridwar on Monday to retrieve one of its victims.
"Seven people including a Sadhvi, identified as Binaji Maharaj, who used to operate in Khanpur were arrested in Neb Sarai on Sunday," said deputy commissioner of police (south) HGS Dhaliwal.
The others arrested include a childless couple identified as Afroz and Mona in addition to Mohammad Zuber, Saira Khusboo and Nanhi — the Sadhvi’s partners in crime.
According to police, the seven-member gang had allegedly been kidnapping children from economically vulnerable localities and selling them to childless couples since 2008.
"The children are aged between one and seven. In addition to Delhi, the gang had been active in neighbouring states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan for the last two years," said a senior Delhi Police officer.
Police said so far they have traced and rescued nine juvenile victims who were to be sold to childless couples for a price ranging from R50,000 to R60,000.
"We are yet to trace and rescue three or four kids. A team has already been dispatched to Haridwar to rescue one of them," the officer said.
Investigators stumbled upon the racket while investigating several cases of kidnapping that were reported from south Delhi’s Neb Sarai and Sangam Vihar areas.
"We first zeroed in on Mona and Afroz who were questioned after being taken into custody. Their interrogation resulted in the apprehension of the Sadhvi and four others. They in turn led to the rescue of two children who had recently been sold to childless couples," said the officer, adding, "While two children were recovered from south Delhi’s Mehrauli area.".
The couple has been sent to three days of police custody for further investigation and recovery of the missing children, while her associates to judicial custody.
"The Sadhvi used to keep a large portion of the money while other gang members would get their paltry shares after each job," the officer said.