The pregnancy of a 10-year-old girl from an ashramshala (boarding school for tribal students) in Buldhana district kicked up a major controversy in Maharashtra on Thursday.
While the police said only this girl had filed a complaint in the case and they are questioning all the girls at the school, the NCP alleged that around 10 girls were sexually exploited at the Ninaji Kokre tribal ashramshala in Khamgaon, run by a private trust. The party alleged the police were trying to cover the matter. The local police arrested 20 people — including trustees and staff at the boarding school. Late on Thursday, a special investigation team was formed under IPS officer Shweta Khedekar to investigate the case.
The 10-year old was found to be pregnant when she went back home to Jalgaon for Diwali. Her family took her to a doctor after she complained of stomach pain. The police said they have conducted a medical test on the girl and are awaiting reports. The main accused was working as a sweeper in the ashramshala and is also a former student, the police said.
Yashwant Solanke, additional superintendent of police (ASP), who is handling the case, said the police arrested 10 people as soon as they came to know about the incident. “We have booked the accused under section 376 of the IPC and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act was imposed on trustees for not fulfilling their duties ,” Solanke told HT.
“He [main accused] was fluent in Pardhi, a language that the girl spoke, and it was easy for him to communicate with her. He took advantage of this and sexually exploited the girl,” Solanke said.
Late in the evening, a Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by IPS officer Shweta Khedkar, was formed. Sanjay Baviskar, superintendent of police (SP), Buldhana, said they decided to form an SIT to probe the case in detail. “SIT will comprise Khedkar, additional SP Buldhana, Rupali Darekar, Deputy SP Khamgaon and other women officers. Moreover, senior IPS Aarti Singh is also coming to the district. She will speak with the girl and authorities at the ashramshala ,” Baviskar told HT.
Earlier, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik alleged there were around 10 girls who were being sexually exploited at the ashramshala. “After one girl who got pregnant raised her voice, other girls, too, have come forward to express their ordeal. Initially, the police were unwilling to file a complaint, but after political intervention, a case has been registered,” Malik said.
He demanded the resignation of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on moral grounds and said all students, including boys and girls studying at ashramshalas across the state, must be taken for medical tests. “With this, we will come to know how many students are facing such sexual assaults so that the culprits can be punished,” Malik told reporters.
Maharashtra has more than 1000 ashramshalas either run directly by the state government or by trusts that are supported by the government through grant in aid. Some 4.45 lakh students are studying in these ashramshalas, of them 1.99 lakh are girls.