Image: Budhia Singh
STRDEL via AFP - Getty Images fi
Budhia Singh became a celebrity in India when he ran 40 miles at the age of 4.
updated 8/13/2007 2:27:04 PM ET 2007-08-13T18:27:04

The coach of a 6-year-old boy who ran a marathon last year in an attempt to set a world record was arrested Monday and charged with torturing the child, police said.

Biranchi Das was arrested after the boy's mother said she discovered scars on the body of her son, Budhia Singh, said police official Sarat Chandra Sahu in Bhubaneshwar, the capital of the eastern state of Orissa.

Singh became an instant celebrity in record-crazy India when he ran 40 miles at the age of 4 — a feat that also drew immediate, widespread condemnation from medical officials and child rights activists.

The boy's mother, Sukanti Singh, had supported Das' efforts to train her son, but on Monday she alleged the man was severely mistreating the boy.

"Biranchi was beating him up regularly," Sukanti Singh told reporters outside the police station. "He even once tied Budhia up from a ceiling fan and threw hot water on his body." Budhia Singh had been living with the coach.

The boy was taken to a hospital for examinations, and was assigned security guards after his mother claimed Das has threatened their lives.

Das denied the allegations, calling the charges "a conspiracy against me hatched by the state government's child welfare department."

The department had condemned the boy's participation in marathons as "torture" in May, a month before police stopped him from making a 60-mile walk in scorching heat across east India.

Financial incentive?
In 2006, Singh attempted to run a 43-mile marathon, sparking protests from child rights activists. Doctors stopped him after 40 miles, when he showed signs of extreme exhaustion.

They found the child to be undernourished, anemic and under cardiac stress.

Sukanti Singh also complained that Das was not fairly sharing the money he had earned from the boy's long-distance exploits.

"He has given me very little, but he was earning a lot of money from my son's hard work," she said, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Budhia Singh's father died when the boy was 7 months old. Das, who met the family two years ago, has said in the past that he has raised Singh as his son.

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