Baba Bamdev (right) in police custody in Khunti after he was nabbed a second time on Sunday. Telegraph picture
A self-proclaimed god-man, who traded in tribal girls on the pretext of his annual Adivasi awareness fair in Delhi and offered shelter to PLFI rebels from Jharkhand, was arrested from Khunti in the small hours of Sunday, 24 hours after he fled from police custody in Ranchi.
Baba Bamdev, alias Ramji Maharaj, who is in his late thirties is a native of Latehar, but frequented the state capital for his skewed business in humans that he continued in the garb of social work.
Following a tip-off from a voluntary organisation, Jagannathpur police in Ranchi first nabbed Bamdev on Saturday night, but he soon hoodwinked the men in khaki and fled. NGO workers chased him all the way to Khunti, where he was netted once again.
“After interrogation in Khunti, we brought him to Latehar for questioning and forwarded him to jail today (Monday). He has many cases pending against him in this rebel-hit district,” said Ashok Kumar, the officer-in-charge of Mahuadanr thana in Latehar.
He added that a team from Delhi is expected to arrive soon to seek Bamdev’s remand in connection with a 2011 rape case registered under Moti Bagh thana in the national capital.
Anti-human Traffic Unit officer in Khunti Aradhana Singh said the trafficking kingpin had divulged his links with two top PLFI rebels — Panna Lal and Keenu Munda — who were involved in flesh trade before they joined the banned outfit.
“Initially, he (Bamdev) was defensive and denied everything. He insisted he did social service by providing employment opportunities to tribal girls. He called them their messiah. However, when countered with facts and figures, he confessed to having links with PLFI rebels,” said Singh.
According to his statement to police, Bamdev offered the extremists safe haven in Delhi when the heat was stepped up in Jharkhand. “He provided these rebels with tribal girls. The rebels, in turn, helped his business flourish,” said Singh.
Baidnath Kumar — a member of Diya Seva Sansthan, the NGO that alerted police on Saturday — said Bamdev’s flesh trade flourished under the garb of a placement agency called Native Adivasi Development Seva Sansthan.
“It is a huge racket that police need to probe properly. Many big names may be involved. Bamdev is wanted in two-three states for rape and flesh trade,” he said, claiming that ever since the god-man’s arrest, they had been receiving threat calls from his influential aides.
Anti-trafficking officer Singh said Bamdev organised an Adivasi Sammelan in Delhi on December 25 every year and brought thousands of tribal girls from Jharkhand in the name of awareness and uplift. “In real, it was like a platform for mass trade. There have been instances when he made smut films of his unassuming victims to mount pressure on them,” she said, adding that the god-man’s conventions had enjoyed political patronage too.
NGO activist Kumar maintained that in 2012, a CID team from Jharkhand had rescued 84 girls who were drugged and locked up in rooms at the tribal fair venue in Delhi’s Punjabi Bagh. “Also, a case of rape is registered against him at Moti Bagh, besides half a dozen other cases, records of which are with Delhi police who are expected to arrive shortly,” he said.