Two more tribal children from Khargone district, who were held captive by a shepherd from Rajasthan after they were sold to the latter, were rescued and brought to a shelter home on Monday.
Police had come to know that the two boys were held captive after they rescued another Sumit, 12, from the clutches of another shepherd, Bhura, on Friday.
A five-member team of senior police officers tracked the camp of the shepherd Hemla at Timarni in Harda district and raided it in the wee hours to rescue the two boys, Ramesh, 11, and Dheeraj, 12. Police have also arrested Hemla from the spot.
Both the boys were later brought to a shelter home at Khargone, where Khargone superintendent of police (SP) Amit Singh recorded their statements.
Ramesh, a native of Chainpur area in Khargone, told the senior policeman that he was sold by his father for a year for Rs 18,000 to Helma, an accomplice of Bhura. Dheeraj, a resident of Mohanpura village, was also sold to the shepherd for Rs 18,000 for a year by his parents.
Both the children were made to do various menial jobs for the shepherd, including tending his herd, in the last seven months of their captivity.
Assistant sub-inspector of police, Bhagwanpura, Dinesh Singh Kushwaha, who was a part of the five-member rescue team told HT over the phone that they had taken shepherd Bhura, who was arrested on Sunday, with them so that he could lead them to his accomplice Hemla.
“Bhura took us to village Bajwani in Timarni, where Hemla was camping with the two tribal children. We rescued the kids and arrested Hemla around 5am. Case has been lodged against both the shepherds under Sections 370 (buying or disposing of any person as a slave) and 374 (unlawful compulsory labour),” he said.
Following the fresh development, Harda SP Prem Babu Sharma instructed his team to “check all such camps of shepherds in the district and see whether they have any children with them who are from Madhya Pradesh or elsewhere.”
Purchased and pushed into slavery
On Sunday, 12-year-old Sumit, who was rescued by the Harda police on Friday, told police that two tribal children were still with the shepherd Hemla, accomplice of the shepherd Bhura.
Sumit had told police that Ramesh and Dheeraj were with the shepherd Hemla, who moved on from Harda. Police acted on this information and succeeded in tracking the children.
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 12,000 to Bhura a month ago.
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.
Now all the five children are at the shelter home in Khargone.
(Children’s names changed)