Eight minor women, 6 with damage marks rescued at Baina, 65-year-old girl held

VASCO: A 65-year-old woman, Venus Habib, was arrested on Sunday on charges of kidnapping and causing injuries to six minor girls. The girls, Habib said, were adopted by her when they were around a month old, and she was receiving ‘funds’ to take care of them.
The incident came to light on Saturday morning, when a group of these children attended a prayer meet at . A fellow-worshipper noticed injuries on the girls and inquired about them. They informed him of the torture they suffered at Habib’s residence, after which the man called Childline 1098, who later alerted police.

Then, at midnight, Vasco police raided two of Habib’s flats.

The police action brought to the light the sordid story of torture and physical and mental on the children.

Eight girls were found; one of them was 11 years old and the other seven, 12. The girls reported that they were hit with pipes and even burned with hot objects if they ‘misbehaved’.

Police then took the children to the police station and inquired about the circumstances under which they were sheltered by Habib. “Habib has said that she adopted the children and that she was receiving funds to take care of them,” said investigating officer PSI Ritesh Tari. Police thereafter began investigating the source of the income and also whether this income was the reason for the adoption.

The police then sent the children to Apna Ghar and arrested Habib under Sections 363 (kidnapping) and 324 (causing injuries) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and Section 8 (abuse) of the Goa Children’s Act. DySP Sunita Sawant told TOI that while a sexual abuse angle hasn’t yet come up, police are committed to probing all angles of the case including sexual abuse.

Habib’s neighbours too testified to her alleged cruelty. “For years we have heard the cries of these children,” said . “She would beat them up badly. At night, they would scream asking Habib not to beat them.” But when neighbours tried to intervene, Habib would threaten them, he said.

Das also cited an incident that occurred around four years ago. A girl who Habib said was her maid ran away, and was brought back and tortured. The neighbours heard her cries, and the next day, she was found hanging in her flat.

Habib had, in 2014, contested the Lok Sabha election as an independent candidate. She is estranged from her husband, and is occasionally visited by her grandchildren. In the instant case, she was produced before the JMFC, Vasco, and remanded to five days police custody.

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