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Last Updated: Monday, 13 August 2007, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
India marathon boy torture charge
Budhia Singh
Budhia Singh has been hailed as a child prodigy (Pics: Sanjib Mukerjee)
The coach of a five-year-old Indian boy famous for running marathons has been charged with torture, police say.

They say that Biranchi Das was arrested after Budhia Singh's mother said she had found scars on the body of her son. Mr Das strongly denies any wrongdoing.

Budhia began running at three and last year entered the record books for covering 65km (40 miles) uninterrupted in just over seven hours.

Officials dubbed him "marathon boy", and he became an overnight celebrity.

Budhia told television channels that Mr Das had punished him by keeping him confined in a room without food for two days.

"He also beat me with a hot iron rod," Budhia said, showing burn marks on his hands.

Biranchi Das
Biranchi Das denies the charges

Mr Das has strongly denied the allegations and claimed that he was being framed by the child's mother.

She has alleged that he beat up Budhia regularly, on one occasion tying him to a ceiling fan and throwing hot water over his body.

"Do you believe I could have done this to Budhia?" Mr Das asked.

"Consult people in the slum that he lived in. When Budhia first came here his entire body was filled with sores and boils. I groomed him as my son."

Security guards

Mr Das called the charges "a conspiracy against me hatched by the [Orissa] state government's child welfare department".

He has long insisted that the boy's health is "normal".

"He's an asset to the nation," he said. "It's a pity that he's surrounded by controversy. India has no marathon runners and, when a kid starts running, instead of supporting him the government is finishing his career."

Budhia Singh with his mother
The boy has been reunited with his mother

Police say that the boy was taken to a hospital for examinations, and was assigned security guards after his mother claimed that Mr Das had threatened their lives.

In May the Orissa child welfare department condemned Budhia's participation in marathons as "torture", a month before they stopped him from making a 100km (60-mile) walk in scorching heat across east India.

In 2006, doctors said he was suffering from extreme exhaustion after he attempted to run a 70km (43-mile) marathon, which led to protests from child rights activists.

Doctors said at that time that the child was undernourished, anaemic and under cardiac stress.

Budhia was born in the slums of Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa. His father was a beggar while his mother earns a living by washing dishes.

When his father died, Budhia's mother, unable to feed her four children, allowed him to be "adopted" by Mr Das, who trained him as a marathon runner.

Budhia Singh shows the scars from alleged torture

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