Eleven staff members of a boarding school for tribal children in Maharashtra were arrested Thursday night for allegedly raping a 10-year-old student amid suspicions that the accused might have sexually abused 10 other girls for weeks.
The headmaster of the school in the state’s Buldhana district is among those arrested under India’s anti-child sexual abuse law as it is alleged he didn’t act after the victim complained to him.
Police said the alleged crime came to light after the tribal girl went home for Diwali and complained of stomach pain – which was confirmed as a pregnancy by the authorities.
“The headmaster has been arrested as under the law, he should have reported the matter to the police after the victim informed him,” Buldhana superintendent of police Sanjaykumar Baviskar told HT.
A sweeper in the school – who also speaks the local language of Pardhi and is a former student – is the main accused. Police have formed a special investigation team.
Police have taken the victim for a medical test. “Once medical tests are done, a woman IPS officer will question girl to know what has actually happened,” Baviskar added. The 11 arrested include a trustee.
The case is filed under section 376 of the Indian Penal code (IPC) and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The school – known locally as an ashramshala – is among 1,000 similar schools across the state, run either directly by the state government or by trusts supported financially by the government. Some 445,000 students are studying in these ashramshalas, around 200,000 of them are girls.
The case has already kicked off political row. The opposition Nationalist Congress Party has backed allegations that there are 10 other girls who were raped in the school.
“After one girl who got pregnant raised her voice, other girls came forward. Initially, the police were unwilling to file a complaint but after political intervention, a case has been registered,” said NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik.
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.