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'Absolutely inhumane': Indian student brutally beaten, held captive and forced into labour in US

The 20-year-old Indian student was subject to horrifying abuse, including being forced to work for the three houses owned by the main suspect. He was beaten by PVC pipes, electrical wire and water supply hose and forced to sleep on a concrete floor in a basement with no access to a bathroom.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Published on: December 01, 2023 13:34 IST
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A 20-year-old Indian student was rescued by authorities in the US State of Missouri after he was held captive for months without access to a bathroom, brutally beaten and forced to work at three homes by his cousin and two other men. Prosecutor Joe McCulloch described the incident as "absolutely inhumane and unconscionable" that a person could be treated in such a condition.

Police have arrested three accused, namely Venkatesh R Sattaru, Sravan Varma Penumetcha and Nikhil Verma Penmatsa after they went to a home in St Charles County. The accused were charged with several offences including human trafficking, kidnapping and assault. The identity of the Indian student was not disclosed.

According to the charges, the student was locked in a basement and forced to sleep on an unfinished floor without access to a bathroom for over seven months. The victim was forced to scavenge for scraps from nearby restaurant dumpsters and was viciously beaten by a variety of tools, including an electrical wire, PVC pipe, metal rods, water supply hose and more, as per reports.

McCulloch said that the Indian student is safe and being treated at a hospital for multiple bone fractures, as well as lacerations and injuries throughout his entire body. "It’s absolutely inhumane and unconscionable that one human being could treat another human being like this," he said on Thursday.

Victim subjected to horrifying abuse

The accused are also alleged to have confined and abused the victim in three different houses owned by Sattaru, the main suspect in the case, in Defiance, Dardenne Prairie and O’Fallon from April this year. Sattaru was identified as the ringleader of the trio and has been charged with human trafficking for the purpose of slavery and contributing to human trafficking through misuse of documentation.

The student had emigrated from India last year in hopes of studying at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. However, he was instead taken to Sattaru's homes and forced to begin chores, work a full day for his IT company and complete a list of evening tasks. Court documents show the student saying that he slept only three hours of sleep on the concrete floor under constant surveillance by Sattaru.

The victim was severely beaten if he failed to complete his tasks properly and was even forced to strip down, after which he was kicked, stomped and lashed, according to charges. His injuries included previous fractures and breaks that did not heal properly.

“They beat him with their fists, they stomped on him, they beat him with electrical wiring, with PVC pipes. They forced him to sleep in an unfinished basement, they starved him and limited his access to the public and to restrooms,” McCulloch said, commending a citizen for making the rescue possible.

On the fateful day, police arrived at the house, where they were told at first by a man in the home that they couldn’t come inside, but the 20-year-old eventually came running from the basement. He was trembling uncontrollably, heavily scarred and suffering from bruising and swelling all over his body, charges say.

The three suspects are wealthy and have political connections in India, so they are being held at the St Charles County Jail without bond, McCulloch said. None of the three men had attorneys listed in court documents. The incident left neighbours shaken, many of whom said that they had pleasant interactions with the family.

(with inputs from PTI)

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