Three centres run by a "spiritual leader" were raided by the police in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh today and 47 women and six minor girls were rescued.
Three centres run by a “spiritual leader” were raided by the police in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh today and 47 women and six minor girls were rescued. A Delhi Police team went to an ashram founded by Virender Dev Dixit at Dwarka in the national capital and rescued five minor girls, who were allegedly kept confined there, officials said. Uttar Pradesh Police also raided two centres run by Dixit at Siktarbad and Kampil respectively and rescued 47 women and a girl.
Facing a stiff opposition from the inmates, the police had to enter the centres from the terraces of the adjoining buildings.
Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Tribhuvan Singh said the minor girl, rescued from the Siktarbad ashram, would be produced before a magistrate and her statement would be recorded soon.
On Thursday, raids were conducted at the Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya at Rohini in the national capital, where women and girls were allegedly kept confined like “animals in a cage”.
The matter had come to light after a PIL was filed by an NGO, Foundation for Social Empowerment, in the Delhi High Court.
Subsequently, the high court had set up a committee, comprising lawyers and Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal, to inspect the premises of the institute.
It had also asked the committee to inspect eight other centres run by Dixit in the national capital.
Maliwal today said the Dwarka ashram had “prison-like surroundings” and the inmates there were kept locked.
“There were stacks of medicines and no register was being maintained to show where did the girls come from and for how long have they been there. All the girls gave evasive replies,” she said in a statement.
Maliwal also said it was found that many girls were undergoing psychological treatment and were shifted from the Vijay Vihar ashram to Uttam Nagar.
“The locals informed us that before the DCW visit, many girls had been removed from the premises that morning. They said they often heard the girls cry at night. Also, cars kept going in and coming out of the ashram at night,” she said.
Maliwal added that the CBI, which was asked to probe the matter by the Delhi High Court, should also investigate the “role of the police and political leaders in the matter”.
On Thursday, 41 teenage girls were rescued from the Rohini ashram and several objectionable items were seized.
Maliwal claimed that there were boxes found in the ashram, which contained letters with “explicit contents”, written by Dixit to the female inmates.
The DCW chief had earlier claimed that the ashram at Rohini had metal gates every 10 metres and that its terrace had a barbed-wire fencing to prevent the girls from fleeing.
The locals alleged that the girls were being tormented for years. They also claimed that the police had not paid heed to complaints in this regard earlier.
“It was like someone playing a record at night. From 2 to 5 am, we would hear the screams of the girls, but would never see them during the day. Every night, cars would come and go. It was going on for years,” said Meena Singh, a local.
Delhi Police today claimed that previous inquiries did not point towards any criminality of the authorities of the ashram.
“The Ashram has been there in the Vijay Vihar area of Rohini for years. We had received a few complaints from the families of the girls residing there and there had been counter-complaints from the girls as well,” said Madhur Verma, Public Relations Officer (PRO), Delhi Police.
He also said the inquiries into the complaints were monitored by the court.
“In one such case, five families had approached Delhi Police with complaints against the ashram. The high court had said the families could not forcibly take their daughters from the ashram. They had directed the police to provide security to the women,” Verma said.
He cited another instance, in which an alleged victim was rescued and produced before the Child Welfare Committee but subsequently, the sessions court had ruled that she was a major and could stay wherever she wanted to.
There were also allegations that the former deputy commissioner of police (Rohini) had visited the ashram on November 11.
“He had gone there to inquire into a complaint, in which a Rajasthan-based family had alleged that their daughter was being exploited at the ashram. The woman told the police that she did not want to meet her family members and that she was staying at the ashram out of her own choice,” Verma said.