BANKURA: The principal and a teacher of a Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) in West Bengal's Bankura district were among eight people arrested for allegedly attempting to traffic five children, police said on Monday.
The incident has sparked a political slugfest between the BJP and the TMC, with state minister Shashi Panja accusing a senior BJP leader of having a connection with the racket, and the saffron party dismissing the charge and calling it an attempt at mudslinging "just for the sake of opposition".
The racket was unearthed when a local panchayat chief noticed two children crying when they were asked by some people to get inside a car on the JNV campus in Kalapathar locality in Bankura Sadar police station area on Sunday, an officer said.
The panchayat chief enquired with the car occupants, and upon finding a discrepancy in their answers, informed the locals.
The principal, on the other hand, attempted to escape from the area, following which locals blocked the roads, he said.
The principal, a teacher, and three others were arrested from the spot, and three more people were later nabbed from Durgapur in neighbouring Paschim Bardhaman district, Bankura Superintendent of Police Dhritiman Sarkar said.
Three girls and two boys were also rescued from the spot and sent to a safe home, he said.
An investigation is underway to find out where the children were being trafficked to, the officer said.
The accused people were produced before the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate during the day, which remanded three of them, including the principal, to five-day police custody, and the remaining five to 14-day judicial custody.
The arrested people have been booked under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.
Sharing a purported photograph of the principal with a BJP MP from the area, state Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Minister Dr Shashi Panja tweeted: "Murky stories of @BJP4Bengal doesn't seem to end! Principal of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Bankura has been accused in a child trafficking case. Alarming connection with BJP MP. Does BJP give shelter to such known criminals?!" PTI, however, could not independently verify the authenticity of the image.
Dismissing the allegation as baseless, Bankura's BJP MLA Niladri Sekhar Dana said, "Protection of the school is the state government's responsibility. Dr Shashi Panja is levelling baseless allegations just for the sake of opposition. But the truth will come out."
The BJP MP in question, however, could not be contacted for a comment.
(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)