Officials on Wednesday rescued a seven-year-old girl who had been tied up and confined in a dungeon by a “swamiji” since February 2.
The underground room was built like a cave on the premises of his “ashram” at Zunzarwad village of the taluk.
After learning that “swami” Sadashivappa Nemagouda alias Appaiahswamy had detained the girl, a team led by Athani tahsildar Aparna Pavate raided the premises on Tuesday midnight and rescued her.
The team, which had to climb down into the underground doorless brick house, found the girl sleeping with firewood strapped around her. Her entire body was smeared with ash and saffron paste. The girl has been identified as a daughter of a couple from Surapali in Bagalkot district, and was given another name by the “swamiji”.
Appaiahswamy had circulated pamphlets ahead of Maha Shivaratri stating that he had tied the girl and later burnt her alive on February 2, adding that she would come back alive on Maha Shivaratri on Thursday.
On Tuesday evening, he lit a fire on the top of the “cave” to convince people that the girl was already dead. Officials raided the place based on information in the pamphlets.
The girl was shifted to the taluk hospital where she was declared healthy.
Taluk medical officer Dr Pushpalata Sunnadakallu also said the girl was healthy and was taking food regularly.
The “swami” said the girl, with the consent of her parents, was given sanyasi diksha a year ago and was kept tied in the basement since February 2. Police also rescued five other children aged between 7 and 9 from the premises and handed them over to the Women and Child Welfare department.