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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Bodh Gaya sex abuse: Did not think children will be harassed in a holy place, say parents

The village headman said children told him how the Buddhist monk would make them masturbate and beat them at the monastery in Bodh Gaya, Bihar.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2018 14:08 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
The Prajna Jyoti Novice School and Meditation Centre at Bodh Gaya.
The Prajna Jyoti Novice School and Meditation Centre at Bodh Gaya.(HT Photo)

It was a phone call from a monk who lives in Mumbai that led to the uncovering of alleged sexual exploitation of 15 children from Assam in a Buddhist monastery’s hostel in Bihar’s Bodh Gaya.

“We got a call from Bhante Sadanand on August 24, saying that our kids in the hostel are not safe,” said a gaon bura (village headman) from Assam’s Karbi Anglong.

The headman, whose two children are among the fifteen, took a train to Bodh Gaya with parents of other children after the distressing call.

Bhante Sanghpriye Sujoy was arrested by Bihar Police on Wednesday after a complaint by this headman narrating the ordeal of the 15 children living in the hostel run by the Bangladeshi Buddhist monk.

“I asked the monk to send the children home,” the headman said. “He refused saying the hostel is not yours.”

The headman then asked him to let one child go. “His mother is also there, I told him,” the headman recalled adding how the monk got angry. The next morning, all the 15 children from Karbi Anglong were thrown out of the hostel.

“The children told me how he would make them masturbate, beat them,” the headman said. “Some of the boys were taken to Kolkata where he sodomised them,” the headman alleged.

All the victims, aged between 7-15 years, are from Karbi Anglong and belong to the Chakma community. Some of them have been living in the hostel for the last 18 months even as others joined in this year.

The victims were not allowed to speak to their parents on the phone. “In the last one and a half years I have only spoken to my children three or four times and that too very briefly,” the headman said.

The parents were wary of filing a police complaint. “We did not know anyone here. We are also poor with no money for hotels. We just wanted to go back,” the headman said. It was the local media persons who got wind of the incident and contacted the headman when he was still in Gaya, the district headquarters.

Read: At Bodh Gaya monastery, children were made to dance nude with head monk: Cops

The police registered a case under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and arrested the monk. A medical examination of the children was done on Thursday.

“We sent our children thinking they will pass matric (Class 12) without us having to spend any money,” the headman said. “We did not know they will have to go through this much of harassment at the hands of a religious leader in such a holy place,” he added.

Meanwhile, the victims do not want to study any further in Bodh Gaya. “They just want to go home. One precious academic year is anyway wasted now. Back home we will have to struggle to make them study,” the headman said.

First Published: Aug 31, 2018 13:57 IST