The Maharashtra government on Saturday closed down the Nimbaji Kokre ashramshala (tribal boarding school) at Khamgaon in Buldhana district and suspended all the teaching and non-teaching employees for their alleged involvement in the rape of minor tribal girls of the school.
The state’s tribal welfare department issued the order shutting down the school.
All the 400 students of the boarding school would be accommodated other neighbouring government recognized ashramshalas so that their education do not suffer. Most of the students are from three neighbouring districts of Vidarbha and Khandesh region.
Vijaya Rahatkar, chairperson of state women commission, who visited the school this morning, said that all the accused staffers of the school have been suspended and the rape cases against them would be conducted in a fast track court. She also went to neighbouring villages to meet the survivors.
Four more people have been arrested on Saturday including a former sarpanch of the village, who was a permanent employee of the school but never worked there. Instead, he facilitated the unofficial employment of Ittusingh Pawar, the prime accused in the case, as a peon.
A total of 15 people have been arrested so far in the case. Eleven of the accused were produced before the Khamgaon court on Friday evening and were sent to police custody for a week. The accused include president, secretary, joint secretary, head master and staff of the school.
The Special Investigation team (SIT) head, Aarati Singh, who reached Khamgaon this morning said that they suspected more children, could have been sexually exploited in the boarding school. “Police will collect more information from students and other officials once the schools re-open after the holidays,” she said.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Friday announced that Buldhana rape incident would be probed under the supervision of the female IPS officer Aarti Singh and assured that strict action would be taken against the accused.
The Guardian minister for Buldhana district, Pandurang Phundkar, who has been camping at Khamgaon to monitor the progress of the investigations, said that so far two girls have came forward with complaints of alleged sexual abuses.
The crime took place in a private boarding school, Nimbaji Kokre Ashramshala at Hivarkheda, near Khamgaon in Buldhana district, some 400 kms from here.
The case hit the headlines after a 10-year-old girl of fourth standard narrated her ordeal to her mother during the vacation. The mother approached senior BJP leader and former Maharashtra minister Eknath Khadse. The girl said that she was repeatedly raped by Ittusingh Pawar, the peon of the boarding school for the last two months.
Khadse immediately informed Maharashtra agriculture minister and local BJP leader Pandurang Phundkar to inquire into the matter and urged him to take appropriate action. Phundkar immediately contacted Khamgaon police that led to a complaint being lodged against the teachers and staff of the boarding school.
The district police are likely to send five girls to Akola general hospital by Sunday for medical examination.