73 held, six children rescued from 'brothel' run by BJP leader in Meghalaya

Representational image.

Shillong: Six children were rescued and 73 people arrested from a "brothel" allegedly run by BJP's Meghalaya vice-president Bernard N Marak in Tura on Saturday, a senior police officer said.

Rimpu Bagan, a farmhouse owned by militant-turned-politician Marak, was raided on the basis of a tip-off, West Garo Hills district's Superintendent of Police Vivekanand Singh told PTI.

"We have rescued six minors -- four boys and two girls -- who were found locked inside dingy cabin-like unhygienic rooms at Rimpu Bagan, run by Bernard N Marak and his accomplices as a brothel, for the purpose of prostitution," Singh said.

All the children were handed over to District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) for safe custody and further necessary action as per law, he said.

In the raid, 27 vehicles, eight two-wheelers, about 400 bottles of liquor, over 500 unused condoms, and crossbows and arrows were seized, he said.

Seventy-three people were arrested for their indulgence in "nefarious activities" as evident from the material seized, the officer said, adding that the farmhouse has 30 small rooms.

It is suspected to be the place where a girl was sexually assaulted, and a case was filed in that regard in February, he said.

The relatives of the girl traced her to Rimpu Bagan, he said.

"It was ascertained that the minor was sexually assaulted multiple times over one week, and a case was registered under IPC sections 366A (procuration of minor girl), 376 (punishment for rape) and sections of the POCSO Act," Singh said.

The survivor had told the court that she and her friend were taken to Rimpu Bagan by the accused. The accused persons hired a room there and sexually assaulted her multiple times, he said.

Multiple verbal complaints were also received from residents of Tura town, alleging that immoral activities were going on at Rimpu Bagan, following which the operation was planned, the officer said.

During the raid, police found many young men and women without clothes and drinking. All 68 of them were arrested, he said.

The manager, caretaker and three staffers of the property were also arrested, he said.

A case was registered under relevant sections of the IPC and the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act, 1956.

Police said they have asked Marak to cooperate with the investigation and surrender at the Shillong Sadar police station immediately, but he was evading arrest.

Marak, an elected member of the Garo Tribal Autonomous District Council, in a statement attacked Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma for the raid at the farmhouse, denying any allegation about running a "brothel".

"The CM is getting desperate as he knows he is losing his South Tura seat to the BJP. The raid at my farmhouse is a desperate attempt by him to malign my image and a political vendetta," he claimed.

The BJP is a part of the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance, led by Sangma's NPP.

There are more than 25 criminal cases against Marak, the then self-styled chairman of now disbanded militant outfit Achik National Voluntary Council (B), since the early 2000s, the SP said.

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