MUMBAI - Police have arrested two Indians running a children's shelter for allegedly forcing five youngsters in their care to perform sexual acts and eat dog excreta, officials said Thursday.
The male owner and female manager of the home in Karjat in western Maharashtra state were arrested and produced in court on Tuesday after parents of the children filed a complaint, said police and a local branch of Childline.
"To put it simply, the owner of the home was having sexual orgies," Anuradha Sahasrabuddhe, director of Childline in the nearby city of Pune, told AFP.
"Boys were forced to undress and lie down, after which girls were asked to worship their private parts," added Ms Sahasrabuddhe, who helped the families file their complaint.
Ms Sahasrabuddhe said the children were forced to have sex with each other and to eat dog excreta as punishment at the privately-run home, which housed about 30 children from poor backgrounds, aged between eight and 14.
Police inspector S.M. Jadhav in Karjat also confirmed allegations of sexual abuse to the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency, saying the children recalled being forced to perform sexual acts before the arrested pair.
The case came to light after the employers of one of the parents approached Childline, which led to four girls and one boy, aged eight to 14, lodging allegations of abuse, Sahasrabuddhe said.
"The children had come home for vacations and the trauma was visible to their parents," she said.
The pair were arrested, produced in court and sent to custody until June 5, facing various charges including unnatural offences, assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty, wrongful confinement, and child sex offences, PTI reported.
But Ms Sahasrabuddhe accused the police of mishandling the case, suspecting them of giving the arrested pair a tip-off and forcing the girls in the case to ride in the same vehicle as the accused for medical tests.
According to the Mumbai Mirror newspaper, local political parties also protested at Karjat police station on Wednesday and accused the police of siding with the accused.
Karjat police were unavailable to speak to AFP.