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USA: Indian student forced into months of labour; three charged

December 1, 2023

The horrendous case unfolded over a seven-month period, during which the student was allegedly confined to a basement, compelled to sleep on an unfinished floor without access to basic amenities. According to charges, he resorted to scavenging for food in nearby restaurant dumpsters and was subjected to brutal beatings with various implements, including electrical wire, PVC pipe, metal rods, wooden boards, sticks, and even a water supply hose. The nature of the abuse inflicted on him has been described as “absolutely inhumane and unconscionable.”

Prosecutor Joe McCulloch, in a news conference, condemned the accused for their ruthless treatment of the victim. The charges encompass incidents across three different homes owned by the alleged ringleader, Venkatesh R Sattaru, in Defiance, Dardenne Prairie, and O’Fallon. The investigation indicates that the accused orchestrated a campaign of confinement and abuse against the victim, beginning in April 2023.

Sattaru, identified as the primary orchestrator, resides in the O’Fallon home with his family. The charges against him include human trafficking for the purpose of slavery and contributing to human trafficking through the misuse of documentation. Sravan Varma Penumetcha and Nikhil Verma Penmatsa, the other accused, reside in the same house where the victim was rescued.

The victim, who arrived in the US from India with aspirations of studying at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, found himself ensnared in a nightmare. Instead of pursuing education, he alleges being coerced into rigorous labor, commencing at 4:30 am daily, followed by a full day of work for Sattaru’s IT company and evening chores. The victim reported receiving only three hours of sleep in a locked basement, monitored by Sattaru through a surveillance camera.

If tasks were not completed to the satisfaction of the accused, the victim faced severe beatings, including being forced to strip naked and enduring kicks, stomps, and lashes across his body. The charges highlight a pattern of abuse resulting in injuries, including untreated fractures and breaks.

As authorities continue their investigation, the accused are currently held without bond due to their affluence and political connections. The community, initially shaken by the arrests, grapples with the stark contrast between the perceived normalcy of interactions with the accused family and the shocking allegations against them. This case underscores the imperative role of vigilant citizens in reporting suspicious activities, potentially preventing prolonged incidents of abuse and captivity.

Also read: International students have returned to US colleges, fuelled by a surge from India

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