Jammu and Kashmir police and Kathua district administration personnel raided an unregistered orphanage on Friday and booked a pastor under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, PTI reported on Saturday. The children have been relocated to Bal Ashram and Nari Niketan Kathua, Kathua Assistant Revenue Commissioner Jitender Mishra told Greater Kashmir.

Kathua Senior Superintendent of Police Shridhar Patil said they conducted the raid based on a complaint. The girls at the orphanage alleged that the pastor, Thomas Antony, had sexually abused them. The children are from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Mishra said that the pastor had claimed that he was running the orphanage under the aegis of the Pentecostal Mission in Pathankot. “When we checked with the Pentecostal Mission in Pathankot, they denied any permission to such an orphanage in Kathua,” Mishra told Hindustan Times. “The accused had been running the orphanage in a rented accommodation and the accommodation had no board or hoarding to suggest that it was a duly registered orphanage.”

The pastor has denied claims of sexual abuse. “A total of 21 children are staying at the asylum,” PTI quoted the pastor as saying. “Two of them have gone to their native place – Pathankot (Punjab) – to attend a wedding.”