Gory details have begun to emerge from the shocking case of girls being exploited in an NGO-run state-funded shelter house in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur. While a political slugfest has hogged the limelight, the probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which took over the case on the Nitish Kumar government’s recommendation, has thrown up sordid findings that lay bare a deep-rooted, planned conspiracy. As CBI started inspecting the office of the Pratah Kamal, the hindi daily owned by prime accused Bjajesh Thakur, officials have found a staircase which connected the printing press to the shelter home, located right next to it.
CBI officials are yet to come out with a statement on this finding but there are suspicions that this stairway was used by visitors and Thakur himself, news channel Aaj Tak reported. While Thakur has already been arrested, employees of the printing press are at large. It has been said that the three-storey staircase was designed to conceal the activities which were allegedly carried out by Thakur and his accomplices.
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The staircase, investigators believe, could have provided the perfect allibi for vistors who would be brought in through the entrance of the newspaper press and then be escorted to the shelter home where the girls were housed. Questions have been raised on this staircase with the path leading to the shelter home evoking questions, answers to which are yet to be ascertained.
Pratah Kamal is owned by Brajesh Thakur. Besides the Hindi daily, Thakur is said to own an English newspaper News Next and an Urdu journal “Haalaat-e-Bihar”. The publications have been getting advertisements from the state government for quite long and were only stopped in June after he was made an accused in the case. Besides, Thakur’s accreditation with PIB, New Delhi, was cancelled last week.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has found himself on the backfoot over the charges that have surfaced following the entire revelation. Besides photographs of Thakur emerging with the CM, he is also being asked questions on his alleged high-handedness in dealing with Manju Verma, the minister whose husband’s name has also featured in the course of the investigation so far. After breaking his silence on the matter days after the furore, and promising strict action against those found guilty, the CM has come out in strong defence of his minister and refused any action against the minister outright.
“Investigations are on. If it is found that she had in any way facilitated any wrongdoing, she may have to go, but (not) because people are making noises,” Kumar said.
In February 2018, a team of officials from Pune’s TISS submit their audit report on Muzaffarpur shelter home to Bihar’s Social Welfare department. In its report, TISS had highlighted the issue of sexual assault on minor girls. The TISS report is forwarded to the Director of Bihar’s Social Welfare department on May 26, 2018.
An FIR was lodged on May 31 against 11 persons, including Brajesh Thakur, the owner of the NGO ‘Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti’ which ran the shelter home for destitute girls funded by the government. Ten out of 11 accused persons, including Thakur, have been arrested in the case so far and the state police had submitted its charge sheet against them before a before Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) court in Muzaffarpur. The medical examinations of 34 of the 42 inmates of the shelter home in Muzaffarpur have so far confirmed that they were sexually exploited. 14 officials have been suspended.