by Manoj Chaurasia
Authorities in eastern India have ordered for complete demolition of a three-storey building where at least 34 girls were gang-raped during their stay there.
The building which functions as the Child care home is located in Muzaffarpur district town of Bihar, some 80 km north of capital city of Patna. As many 70 girls were lodged in the child care home and their medical examination has now found that at least 34 of them were gang-raped by the care home officials or outsiders. The state-funded care home was being run by a non-governmental organization.
Officials say the entire building has been constructed in complete disregard of the building by-laws by its owner Brajesh Thakur, now shifted to a high-security jail outside Bihar for his alleged political connections on the directive of the Supreme Court now monitoring the sex abuse case. According to them, the state government had approved the map for construction of G+1 building but he constructed the G+3 building.
“We have asked the care home owner to pull down the entire G+3 structure within a month failing which we will raze the building to the ground,” Muzaffarpur municipal commissioner Sanjay Dubey said. He added the department would also realize the expenditures incurred on pulling the structure down if the owner failed to comply with the corporation order.
‘Worse than prison’
The action comes after India’s top court during the recent hearing of the sex abuse case termed the care home as “worse than prison”. The 50-feet high building has no ventilation facility and it was especially designed to ensure no cry for help by victim girls is noticed by neighbours, reports said.
The alleged sexual abuse of girls was first highlighted in the audit report of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) submitted to the state government earlier this year. The TISS in its 100-page report had reportedly mentioned that “Institutions of all categories were found to be indulging in some form of abuse. Incidents of harassments, sexual abuse, corporal punishment, neglect and humiliation were reported rampantly”. Acting on the report, the police later rescued all the girls and sent them to hospital for medical examination. It was only then that the entire incident of their gang-rape came to light.
The TISS had been hired by the state government to conduct social audit of 110-odd shelter homes, child care homes and short stay homes in the state.
The TISS, a multi-campus public funded research university in Mumbai reported gross sexual abuse of inmates in at least 15 shelter homes running across the state. It especially raised questions over the prevailing state of affairs at short stay homes for both girls and boys running at Muzaffarpur, Patna, Munger, Gaya, Araria and Kaimur districts, reports said. “All of them were found to be running in violation of the respective schemes and the essence of the Juvenile Justice Act. The inmates’ right to life was in question in certain institutions,” the TISS said in its report.
Reports said the sexual abuse of innocent girls went unabated as its owned Thakur enjoyed political connections. Added to that, Thakur was also running as many as three newspapers in three different languages—Hindi, English and Urdu. It is said the newspapers were being used as a cover to hide “horror tales” of the care home. Media reports have said the papers were getting government advertisements to the tune of over Rs3 million per year by manipulating the circulation figures of his newspapers.
The case is now being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under the observation of the Supreme Court which has taken the suo motu cognizance of the case. Incidentally, one of the accused in the case happens to be the husband of a former social welfare minister Manju Verma who herself is absconding since August.
During a police investigation it was found that the minister’s husband had frequently visited the care home located in Muzaffarpur and also talked to the main accused Thakur as many as 17th times between January and May this year. The sensational revelation came to light after the CBI analysed the call detail records of the main accused Thakur.
It was only after her husband’s name figured in the sex abuse controversy that the social welfare minister resigned from her post in August. Right now, she has gone into hiding after a local court issued non-bailable arrest warrant against her in an Arms Act case. Her husband is already in jail.
Article first published on Al Arabiya English.
Manoj Chaurasia is a senior journalist based at Patna, India.