Mumbai, March 2 – A prominent Indian politician has been arrested for allegedly masterminding a child trafficking ring.
Juhi Chowdury, a leader of the women’s wing of the country’s ruling BJP, was found near the Nepalese border in West Bengal.
A CID source said four investigators disguised as monks, acting on a tip-off about her location, detained her after tracking her mobile phone, the Sky News reported.
Police claim she was the key player in a “baby trafficking racket” that sold children for tens of thousands of pounds to other parts of India and overseas.
Chowdury appeared in court on Wednesday, charged with selling at least 17 children, aged between one and 14, at high prices over the past few months, under the guise of helping couples adopt.
She eluded police for 10 days after going on the run following the arrest of the owner of a West Bengal orphanage for illegally selling babies to childless couples.
Rajesh Kumar, of West Bengal CID, said: “She was involved in the illegal adoption and trafficking of babies from a nursing home in Jalpaiguri, whose owner Chandana Chakrabarty had already been arrested.”
Police believe the operation may have spread to New Delhi and other parts of India.
The Ashray Orphanage, run by a non-profit organisation using forged documents, fake stamps and certificates, had sold at least two dozen children for between 100,000 and 200,000 rupees (£1,200-£2,400) each, police claim.
Many believe the operation could not have succeeded without officials turning a blind eye.
Child rights campaigner Victor Basu said: “This home had government sanction and it has trafficked young women and sold their babies for illegal adoption. How is that possible without collusion?”
The orphanage is the only one in the district permitted to put children up for adoption and Kumar confirmed police are looking into links to local authorities.
Ms Chowdhury, who has been sacked from her party role, claimed outside court she was a “victim of political conspiracy”.
(Pic Courtesy The Indian Express)