| Hard truth: A still from Slumdog Millionaire |
The rescue of a missing eight-year-old boy has unearthed the possibility of a well-oiled begging syndicate in the state as portrayed in the Academy Award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire.
On Saturday, an officer at Sadar police station said: “On June 19, we recovered eight-year-old Sudhanshu, alias Golu, from a marketplace in Hajipur. He hails from Birra village under Sadar police station. Golu had gone missing mysteriously on June 16, following which his family members lodged an FIR.
“One Dilip Patel, who had purportedly kidnapped Golu and had forced him to beg, was arrested. Further investigations are being conducted because of a strong possibility of the presence of a gang that kidnaps children from different parts of the state and forces them to beg.”
According to information divulged by Golu, Patel lifted him from Hajipur in Vaishali district, 25km north of Patna, and tonsured him to give him the look of a beggar and forced him to beg.
Men-in-uniform suspect Patel could be a part of the begging syndicate.
“Patel, also from Hajipur, revealed during interrogation that he went to Birra and took up work in a temple. In the process, he befriended the boy over a week before taking him along. He then tonsured Golu’s head and gave him tattered clothes to give him a sad look,” said another police officer.
“Many boys with such looks roam the streets claiming to have lost a family member. According to Hindu customs, bereaved male members of the family shave off their heads. Out on the streets, they beg for money to perform the last rites. People give in out of sympathy. Patel has been sent to jail but would later be taken on remand for questioning. The racketeers know different ways to extract money from people. There might be more men like Patel in different districts too. The police are scanning his background,” added the police officer.
In early-2012, the police had nabbed a few people, including some women, who begged and forced some kids to emulate them.
“The gang used to target kids who were mostly ragpickers. They were beaten up and terrorised before being forced to beg. The police here have not seen any incident like this before. We would cooperate with our Hajipur counterparts if they seek help from us,” said a deputy superintendent of police-rank officer.