In another incident of sexual exploitation of minors, a Buddhist monk was arrested for allegedly sexually abusing 15 children, all aged between seven (7) to twelve (12), in a meditation centre at Bodhgaya, Bihar on Wednesday. Bhante Shangpriya, a Bangladeshi national, was the head monk at Prajna Jyoti Novice School and Meditation Centre.
The children were brought specially from the North-eastern states, particularly from Tripura and Assam, for training to the said Buddhist Monastery in Bihar. These children were allegedly engaged as sex workers and sent to other states, especially Kolkata to prospective clients.
The children also accused the head monk of locking them up them in a room with food and water for prolonged periods of time. They were also subjected to brutal physical punishment if they did not adhere to the Monk’s unprincipled command to join him in a nude dance at night.
The special investigation team which arrested the monk was constituted by Gaya’s senior superintendent of police (SSP) Rajeev Mishra on Thursday to probe the alleged physical and sexual abuse of 15 children at the centre. It is headed by Bodh Gaya’s deputy superintendent of police Raman Kumar Chaudhary and monitored by city superintendent of police Anil Kumar. The head Monk has been sentenced to 14-days judicial custody and has been sent to Bodhgaya Jail.
It is reported that the victim’s parents paid around 1000 rs each for their wards to come to the Monastery for schooling. Police are still searching for an individual named Arun Kumar, who is said to be instrumental in bringing the children from Assam to the Pilgrimage town.
All the children rescued are from Karbi Anglogn district of Assam, the ordeal of these child monks came to light after one child rang a former teacher in Mumbai, who then informed their parents who came to Bodhgaya and took these children to the police station.
The International Buddhist council (IBC) held an emergency meeting on Thursday in Bodhgaya and passed a resolution condemning the heinous crime against the children in the name of religious teaching.
“The district administration should initiate steps to ensure the registration of the remaining monasteries to keep a vigil on their functioning,” the secretary said.
The council’s secretary Pragya Bhante said while talking to reporters that there are more than 160 Buddhist monasteries across Bodh Gaya of which only 55 are registered either with the council or with Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC). The council also resolved to extend its cooperation to the investigation team to bring out the truth.