In a major crackdown on Tuesday, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raided 76 locations across 14 states and Union Territories to curb the menace of online child abuse.
The agency had registered 23 separate cases against 83 accused persons on November 14, based on allegations related to online sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
“The investigation is still on and teams have been deployed at all the 76 places,” a senior CBI officer said.
The raids were carried out at around 76 locations, including Tirupati, Kanekal (Andhra Pradesh); Delhi; Konch Jalaun, Mau, Chandauli, Varansi, Ghazipur, Siddharthanagar, Moradabad, Noida, Jhansi, Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh); Junagarh, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar (Gujarat); Sangroor, Malerkotla, Hoshiarpur, Patiala (Punjab); Patna, Siwan (Bihar); Yamuna Nagar, Panipat, Sirsa, Hisar (Haryana); Bhadrak, Jajapur, Dhenkanal (Odisha); Tiruvalure, Coimbatore, Namkkal, Salem, Tiruvannamalai (Tamil Nadu); Ajmer, Jaipur, Jhunjhunu, Nagaur (Rajasthan); Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh); Jalgaon, Salwad, Dhule (Maharashtra); Korba (Chhattisgarh); and Solan (Himachal Pradesh).
The cases were registered based on a source-based information that a syndicate of individuals based in different parts of Bharat and foreign countries is indulging in circulating, storing and viewing Child Sexual Exploitation Material (CSEM) using various social media platforms and groups.
“Such persons are disseminating CSEM by way of sharing links, videos, pictures, texts, posts and hosting such content on social media platforms, especially through a WhatsApp group and third-party storage platforms,” an official said.
According to the FIR, there was information that 31 members of the aforementioned group were sharing CSEM content in connivance with each other.
As per the initial information collected, there were more than 50 groups having over 5,000 offenders sharing child sexual abuse material. Many of these groups also had the involvement of foreign nationals.
It was initially learnt that there may have been the involvement of people from around 100 countries spread across various continents.
Sources said that some of the foreign nationals were from Pakistan, Canada, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, the UK, Belgium, Yemen etc., adding that 10 suspects have been detained during the raids.
The premier probe agency said that it is coordinating with its sister agencies through formal and informal channels and searches and development of further leads are underway.
The FIRs were registered under Section 14 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act and Section 67B of the IT Act.
Notably, the country is currently observing Child Safety Week from November 14 to November 20. Child Safety Week is a collaborative movement to raise awareness and encourage collective action towards addressing the issues of child sexual abuse.
A special unit named ‘Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention/Investigation (OCSAE)’ was created in the CBI for matters pertaining to online child sexual abuse and exploitation.
Apart from coordination with various agencies, the unit is undertaking investigation of various offences relating to online child sexual abuse and exploitation.
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with minor edits to conform to Hindu-Post style-guide.)