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Indian student kept in captivity for 3 months, beaten with PVC pipe, metal rods in US, rescued

A 20-year-old Indian student was rescued by United States authorities from a house he was being held captive by his cousin and two other Indian-origin men. According to reports, the Indian student was being held captive in the house for three-months without access to a bathroom, viciously beaten, and forced to work at three homes by his captors. 

The US authorities have described the situation as “absolutely inhumane and unconscionable.”

The incident was reported from US state of Missouri. 

The US Police arrested Venkatesh R Sattaru, Sravan Varma Penumetcha and Nikhil Verma Penmatsa, and on Thursday charged them with offences including human trafficking, kidnapping and assault, AP reported. 

The victim is safe and being treated at a hospital for multiple bone fractures, as well as lacerations and injuries covering his entire body, said prosecutor Joe McCulloch.

Over seven months, the men locked the student in a basement and forced him to sleep on an unfinished floor without access to a bathroom, charges say.

He scavenged for scraps in nearby restaurant dumpsters and was beaten with electrical wire, PVC pipe, metal rods, wooden boards, sticks and a water supply hose for a washing machine, St Louis Post-Dispatch, a major regional newspaper, reported.

The three defendants are accused of confining and abusing the victim at three different homes owned by Sattaru in Defiance, Dardenne Prairie and O’Fallon, starting in April 2023, according to St Charles County’s official website.

Sattaru was identified by investigators as the ringleader and lives in the O’Fallon home with his wife and children.

The main suspect in the case, Sattaru, 35, is additionally charged with human trafficking for the purpose of slavery and contributing to human trafficking through misuse of documentation.

Penumetcha and Penmatsa live in the home where the student was rescued.

Authorities said the student had come to the US from India last year with hopes of studying at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. Instead, he was taken to Sattaru’s homes beginning in April and was forced to begin chores around 4:30 am, work a full day for Sattaru’s IT company and then complete a list of evening tasks.

The student told police he regularly got three hours of sleep on a concrete floor in a locked basement where Sattaru monitored him with a surveillance camera, according to court documents.

If the 20-year-old didn’t complete the tasks properly, he was severely beaten. Charges say he was forced to strip down naked and was hit all over his body. He was kicked, stomped and lashed, charges say, and his injuries included previous fractures and breaks that did not heal properly.

McCulloch commended that citizen for making the rescue possible.

Because the three suspects are wealthy and have political connections in India, McCulloch said they are being held at the St Charles County Jail without bond.

Neighbours in O’Fallon were shaken by the arrests on Thursday.

Police were told at first by a man in the home that they couldn’t come inside, but the Indian student eventually came running from the basement. He was trembling uncontrollably, heavily scarred and suffering from bruising and swelling all over his body, charges say.

After fleeing the home, the student told police that Sattaru would often beat him himself, but Penumetcha and Penmatsa sometimes punished him too. Sattaru would call the pair and tell them to beat the Indian student, then tell them to hit him harder if Sattaru was not satisfied with his cousin’s cries of pain, authorities said.

The student said he was afraid to report the trio because they were wealthy and had powerful connections in India. He said he feared for his safety, as well as his family’s in India.

(With AP inputs)

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Updated: 01 Dec 2023, 04:44 PM IST

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