Twelve minors and 16 others have been rescued from two self-proclaimed godmen in Mumbai’s Kandivali locality. Devendra Dubey (35) and Bhagwandas Tiwari (39), who ran an ashram in the area and claimed to have a direct link to the gods, reportedly held those rescued hostage and forced them to pray incessantly, The Hindu reported.

The Samta Nagar Police raided the ashram, which operated out of a bungalow, after a relative of one of the minors, who managed to sneak an SMS seeking help, approached the police. “A minor inside the ashram contacted his sister in Surat and told her of the ill treatment and torture that he and others were being subjected to. We acted on the tip-off and raided the ashram on Friday night,” Senior Police Inspector Dilip Yadav said.

The duo from Varanasi asked their disciples in various parts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat to send people to live with them in Mumbai and learn religious rituals, police said. The ones rescued were forced to come to the ashram by their villages, and they were barely fed and made to stand on one leg most of the day, another police officer told The Indian Express.

Dubey and Tiwari promised their clients quick divine intervention. They swore easy wealth, success of a failing business, correction of disorders such as depression, and luck in love. They were booked under several sections of the Juvenile Justice Act and on charges of exploiting trafficked people. Police are on the lookout for one Shweta Mali, who worked as the manager of the bungalow and had entered into the leave and licence agreement with the landlord of the bungalow.