As Deoria shelter home case gets murkier, Uttar Pradesh orders CBI probe

After losing recognition, the home did not become illegal; this only meant that its validity had been suspended, says officer

The Uttar Pradesh police on Tuesday admitted that it had been sending girls to the shelter home in Deoria — under the scanner for alleged sexual exploitation of inmates — even after the institution was de-recognised by the government.

Late in the day, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced that the investigation would be handed over to the CBI. Also, a three-member SIT would investigate the matter.

Terming the incident unfortunate, Mr. Adityanath said at a hurriedly called press conference in Lucknow that said the Additional Director-General, Gorakhpur, would investigate the role of the police. He expressed displeasure at the negligence of the district administration and officials, and said the concerned District Magistrate, now suspended, would also face charges in the chargesheet. The inmates would be shifted to Varanasi from Deoria.

The CM said the shelter home received generous grants from the previous governments and it was the BJP government that unveiled the entire matter and the “sins” of previous regimes.

A senior police officer told The Hindu that they “had no choice” but to send the girls to the shelter home as there was no other such facility in Deoria. “And we could not take them to the police station. Also, the grounds were not clear to us. After losing recognition, the shelter home did not become illegal but it only meant that its validity had been suspended,” the officer said.

The police said they did not know about the alleged mistreatment of inmates and raided the place the day illegal activities were brought to notice by a minor who escaped from the shelter.

Meanwhile, a two-member probe committee submitted its report to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday. But there was no official confirmation if the panel had found instances of sexual abuse or exploitation of the girls.

Minister admits laxity

U.P. Women and Child Welfare Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi said in Lucknow that there was a possibility of sexual exploitation and admitted there had been a laxity at the local level.

“It was either negligience or connivance, that has to be determined … Nobody who is found involved or connected in any way, will be spared,” Ms. Joshi said.

While doctors refused to divulge details of the medical report and an official report could be released soon, a senior police officer said there were signs of “consensual sex” in some girls but “no definitive hints or signs of forced [sex], struggle or wounds”.

Ms. Joshi said the government would investigate “why and how many girls” continued to be sent to the shelter homes by the local police despite orders from Lucknow to shut it down last June.

Chief Medical Officer Deoria Dhirendra Kumar said age verification tests revealed that the 20 girls rescued on Monday were aged between eight and 21.

Father’s complaint

Meanwhile, a teacher at a private school here claimed that his 15-year-old daughter was forcibly held in the shelter home for more than two weeks, indicating that girls were sent to the shelter home as recently as July.

According to the father, his daughter had allegedly eloped or was lured by the son of a village leader on July 18. He lodged a police complaint on July 19 and an FIR was lodged the next day at the Barhaj police station.

He said that that while he had listed possible rape and murder of his missing daughter in his complaint, the local police officer diluted the FIR and tried to brush the case under the carpet.

The FIR, a copy of which is with The Hindu, shows a case registered for kidnapping and abduction for marriage, Sections 363 and 366 of IPC.

The girl was recovered by the police on July 25 and then allegedly sent for a medical examination and produced before a magistrate who ordered she be sent to the shelter home. All this allegedly happened without her parents being informed.

“I was not allowed to meet my daughter. Whenever I went to the shelter home … eight times … they rejected me outright and told me to go the concerned female constable who then asked me to contact the investigating officer, " said the father.

“When I finally met my daughter, she said she was given food once in two days and that too food fit for buffaloes. She was also asked to sweep the floor,” the teacher said.

According to him, the court had issued notice to the police to produce his daughter, who is possibly among the rescued inmates, in court on Wednesday.

Just before her arrest, Ms. Girija Tripathi, the supervisor, said that the allegations against her were baseless and that the inmates were being coerced to give statements in police custody. Rohan P. Kanay, Deoria SP, said the accused Girija Tripathi escaped action for long due to her “social influence”.

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