Circus raided in Goa; 14 minors rescued; owner held for rape

At least 18 persons including 14 minors were rescued during a a raid at a circus in Margao town and the circus owner along with his aide was arrested for raping a 14-year-old girl, police said today.

Besides the 40-year-old owner of the circus, Abdul Khan from Assam, the joint team of Goa women's police station and district police also arrested three other persons on various charges.

"Six minor girls, eight minor boys and four adults who were employed by the circus owner when they were minors, have been rescued during the raid conducted this morning. Local forest department and labour department were also roped in," Deputy Inspector General of Police O P Mishra told reporters.

Khan and his 25-year-old accomplice Virendra Chandra Mandal have been arrested for raping a 14-year-old girl, who was trafficked when she was a year old.

Three others-- Vijay Nikumb, Ram Prasad and Rohan Singh-- have been charged under various sections dealing with child labour, human trafficking, bonded labour, among others.

Besides the rape charge, Khan and Mandal have also been booked under all these other charges. Mishra said that police is trying to ascertain whether other girls were also sexually abused by the accused.

According to police, the issue came to light this week after three girls from the circus, including the rape victim escaped from Margao and landed in Thane (Maharashtra) on their way to Howrah (West Bengal).

One of the girls fell on the platform and was rescued by Mumbai police, which then came to know about the "horrifying experiences" of the girls in Moonlight Circus, which is originally from Assam and travels around the country.

A Mumbai-based NGO 'International Justice Mission' had recorded the statement of the girl, who in turn informed Goa counterpart – ARZ (Anyay Rahit Zindagi), about the presence of several other girls in the circus.

"The girls were brought by the circus owner when they are as young as one year old and later made to work in circus. During the probe, we would know whether other girls were also sexually abused," the DIG said.

Police said that the circus had arrived in Goa recently and was supposed to move to Kudal in Maharashtra which was its next stop.

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