Shelter home rape and CBI probe demand

Arun Srivastava

Bihar used to be notorious for being the most politically violent state, but now sex-related violence has replaced political violence. Probably such violence is not a major crime in the eyes of the Bihar police and the chief minister, which is why every time Nitish Kumar faces the press, he boasts of a crime-free state.
Even after a fortnight of the gruesome crime of the rape of 29 inmates out of 43 of the Shelter Home in Muzaffarpur being reported, Nitish remained unperturbed. Even his own party men concede that since the husband of a senior lawmaker of the NDA was the key operator, state police was initially reluctant to act. What is really shocking is how Sushil Kumar Modi, who has been finding fault with everything, maintained a passive silence.
Nitish Kumar painstakingly tried to protect the culprits by refusing to hand over the case to the CBI. He maintained that the state police was competent to solve the case. Obviously, he did not want to expose his loyal police, which has been the de facto ruler while Nitish looked the other way. Otherwise, the incident might not have happened at all. The SSP of Muzaffarpur has the dubious record of soft-pedalling on such crimes. Incidentally this is only district in Bihar where such large number of heinous crimes have been taking place regularly, whether it is rape of the dalit girls or murder. But so far no action has been initiated against the officer, who is too close to the ruling caucus.
The girls were not merely raped by politicians; they were also presented to people in Delhi and other places. These powerful people were, in fact, running a brothel behind the facade of shelter home. It is really surprising how the Bihar police did not come to know of such large scale operation involving so many girls. It now transpires that some girls had died and their bodies were buried in the campus itself. Some of the girls, who became pregnant in the process, are still living in the house.
Leader of Opposition and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav alleged that Brajesh Thakur, the patron of an NGO, which ran the shelter home, was associated with the Chief Minister's campaign team in Muzaffarpur during the last Lok Sabha elections. Besides him, the name of the husband of a minister is also mentioned in connection with the racket. A Hindi daily run by him is said to have received lavish advertisements from the Information and Public Relations Department.
State police chief, K.S. Dwivedi, had said at a hurriedly organised media conference that there was no need for a CBI inquiry after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced in the Lok Sabha that a CBI probe would be ordered once the Centre receives a request to this effect from the state. The reluctance of the DGP and the chief minister for a CBI probe gives rise to the apprehension of the involvement of some top JD(U) leaders in the crime. The public posture of the police that it was not aware of the crime was a white lie meant to shield powerful people.
Though Tejashvi demanded a thorough probe and accused the government of protecting the criminals, HAM president and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi said it is really strange that the government took a month to act on the social audit report on the shelter home and officials took a few more days to file an FIR.
Realising that the situation was turning serious and the Union government was displeased with his handling of the scandal just ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Nitish Kumar on Thursday recommended a CBI probe into the scandal. Former chief minister and RJD leader Rabri Devi had also demanded a CBI investigation alleging that the accused had links with the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and government officials.
The scandal witnessed a dramatic twist on Wednesday when the wife of an accused alleged that social welfare minister Manju Verma's husband Chandeshwar Verma used to frequent the shelter home and state Women's Commission chairperson Dilmani Devi said she had found evidence of abortions at the Grih. She had visited Muzaffarpur earlier and said that medical examination had confirmed that at least three girls were made to undergo abortions at the home.
It is indeed curious that the shelter home for girls was allowed to be run in a building that was open for entry to all as it housed the office of a local newspaper. Also, there were no CCTV cameras. Although police officers and Child Welfare Commission members had visited the Balika Grih, they never raised any objections on a shelter home being run in a residential area. (IPA)

Saturday, 4 August, 2018