The Himachal Pradesh police on Wednesday arrested the principal and three teachers of a rehabilitation centre for disabled children in Shimla on charges of raping six inmates, including four minors.
The police swooped on the Rehabilitation Centre for the Deaf and Dumb and Mentally Retarded Children at Totu, a Shimla suburb, on Wednesday morning after they were tipped off by the Criminal Investigation Department.
A partially hearing impaired girl, a day scholar at the co-education centre, got to know about the sexual abuse through the victims, and she informed her family and the word spread.
Prerna Welfare Association, an NGO, runs the centre, which is funded through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and also private donations.
Five of the six victims, aged between 13 and 21, are hearing and speech impaired, while one is mentally challenged. Five of the girls are from Shimla district and one is from Solan. They all come from poor families.
Principal and coordinator Vijay, who only uses only one name, teachers Amarjeet Singh and Dinesh Kumar were arrested from the centre. Another teacher, Vinod Kumar, was arrested from Sarkaghat, 200 km from Shimla.
District police chief R.M. Sharma said the medical examination of the girls was being done and forensics were gathering evidence.
Though the victims had not informed the centre’s owner, Komal, who only uses one name and is Vijay’s sister, or their parents as they had been threatened into silence by the accused, the police said the girls had been sexually exploited for a year.
“Vinod used to call me to his room, which is next to the room the girls sleep in, in the night on the pretext of fetching water for him. Then he would strip me and ask me to lie down. He asked me to keep quiet, every time he did that to me, and said if I would tell anyone, he would beat me up,” one of the victims, who is 15 and mentally challenged, told HT.
While she was the only one who could put words to the ordeal, the other girls did point fingers at their teachers. The centre has 27 inmates, all but three are boarders and 12 are boys. Parents of some of the victims, who reached Shimla, were yet to come to terms with their daughters’ ordeal. “I do not know. I’ll see, what to do,” said the father of one.
“I never got to know about it. Nobody told me,” said Komal. She said they didn’t have the funds to have a separate complex for girls, or pay security staff. All the 12 inmates were shifted to a Nari Niketan in Mashobra, 15 km from Shimla, the police said.
The centre is housed in a three-storeyed building. Inmates and the four male teachers share the accommodation. District Welfare Officer, Khem Chand, shrugged off responsibility, saying, “I have joined here recently… don’t have the staff or a vehicle to carry out check.”