Contrary to earlier reports, the two tribal students of the Nimbaji Kokre Ashramshala in Hiwarkhed village near Khamgaon in Buldhana, who had lodged a complaint against the school management and staff for sexual abuse, are not pregnant.
Aarti Singh, head of the special investigation team (SIT), said both the minors were medically examined at the Khamgaon hospital. “They were sexually abused, but are not pregnant,” she said.
As many as 15 staff members of the tribal boarding school were arrested for the rape of a 10-year-old and another student. As many as 17 people were booked in connection with the crime. One of them, headmaster Bharat Lahudkar, is still missing.
Singh said those who were arrested, including prime accused Ittusingh Pawar, were remanded in police custody till November 18 for interrogation. “Lahudkar and another accused, Vijay Ramuji Kokre are missing. The police are looking for them,” said Singh.
The incident came to light when the girl went home for Diwali and complained of stomach ache to her parents, who informed the local village leader. Their complaint was then taken up by the police. The state government has formed an SIT to probe the case, fearing that several more students may have been sexually abused.
The state government closed down the ashramshala and all the teaching and non-teaching staff were suspended. The 400-odd students will be accommodated at the neighbouring tribal boarding schools so their education does not suffer.
There are more than 1,000 residential schools called “ashramshalas” (tribal boarding schools) that are run either directly by the state government or by trusts supported by the government. Around 4.45-lakh students study in these primary and secondary school, of which 2lakh are girls.
Shiv Sena leader visits survivors
Shiv Sena leader and legislator Neelam Gorhe visited the school on Monday evening and met the survivors.
She said the school belongs to an ex-MLA from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). She noted the lack of women supervisors at the school, a loophole which was exploited. “There is a need to send the children to a safe and better place. Their parents need to be reassured,” said Gorhe.