Hindu Group Constructing New Jersey Temple Accused of Human Trafficking and Captive Labor

Hundreds of construction workers from India were allegedly lured to New Jersey to help build a massive Temple but were held captive by a prominent Hindu group forcing them to work for just a few dollars a day, according to a lawsuit.

The federal suit filed by the laborers accused the Hindu group known as the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) of human trafficking and indulging in wage law violations.

BAPS Hindu Temple in New Jersey

The group is accused of bringing more than 200 men to the US who are from the lower caste in India, promising them they would be religious volunteers once the Temple is constructed.

The lawsuit claims that when they arrived on US shores, the group confiscated their passports saying it would be given only when the construction of the Temple is completed. The workers claim they were forced to work 13 hours a day from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm with a payment of about $1.2 per hour.

The workers also claimed that they received only $50 per month and the rest of the money was deposited by the group to their bank accounts back in India.

According to the lawsuit, the exploited workers were kept inside a fence compound and the property was monitored by cameras and security guards. The workers were told that they would be arrested by the police if they try to flee as they don't have their passport with them, the suit alleges.

Daniel Werner, the attorney representing the Indian workers, said he was shocked to see that such a crime had occurred in broad daylight and within the walls of a religious place. The attorney revealed that some of the workers were held captive for years and were not allowed to leave the walls unless accompanied by somebody from BAPS.

Werner said it is ''shocking that this happens in our backyard'' and continued, ''It is even more disturbing that it has gone on for years in New Jersey behind the temple's walls,'' to the NYPost.

BAPS Responds to Accusations

He said FBI agents entered the Temple premises with a ''court-authorized law enforcement activity'' and have freed the captive workers from their confined walls for further investigation.

A spokesperson for BAPS told the Associated Press that the organization was first made aware of the accusations only this week. ''We are taking them very seriously and thoroughly reviewing the issues raised,'' said spokesperson Matthew Frankel.

The workers in their federal lawsuit are seeking for unpaid wages, unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for keeping them hostage and getting them to do forced labor.