Three minor students of an ashramshala (residential school for tribal students) in Buldhana district who said they were raped repeatedly by teachers and other school staff are suspected to be pregnant. The controversy erupted on Thursday with the revelation that a 10-year-old girl studying at Nimbaji Kokre Ashramshala near Khamgaon in Buldhana district had become pregnant.
District police superintendent Sanjiv Baviskar said there are 13 suspects in the case, of which 11 were arrested late on Thursday night and two are absconding. The police said the accused include headmaster Bharat Lakudkar, teachers, peons and other staff. All 11 were produced before a judicial magistrate at Khamgaon on Friday and remanded in police custody for a week.
A source said three of the girls, aged between 10 and 14, who have come forward are suspected to be pregnant. The police said all the girls were sent to a hospital in Akola and that their relatives lodged complaints at Khamgaon police station.
Baviskar said that an SIT led by IPS officer Shweta Khedekar will probe the matter. “There are seven to eight officers in the probe team,” he added.
He said the incident came to light just before Diwali. “We have sent women police officials to talk to the victims and record their statements. So far, 13 teachers and staff have been named as accused and 11 have been arrested,” Baviskar added.
He said, “The main accused (a peon) has been charged with Section 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code and various sections of POCSO (the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act). The rest have been charged under various sections of POCSO. To take the probe further, the victims have been sent for a medical examination.” However, Baviskar said it is yet to be medically verified if the three girls are indeed pregnant.
The 10-year old, a Class 4 student, narrated her ordeal to her mother while on vacation. She said she had been raped repeatedly by Ittusingh Pawar, a peon at the boarding school, over two months. Her mother approached senior BJP leader and former minister Eknath Khadse, who asked Maharashtra agriculture minister and local BJP leader Pandurang Phundkar to inquire into the matter. Phundkar contacted the Khamgaon police, upon which, they registered the parents’ complaints against the teachers and staff.
Chitra Wagh, NCP’s women’s wing president, travelled to Khamgaon on Friday afternoon and visited the school. She demanded action against child welfare minister Pankaja Munde and tribal welfare minister Vishnu Sawra. NCP workers also blocked Sawra’s vehicle when he tried to visit the ashramshala on Friday evening.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Friday directed women officers of the concerned departments to visit all tribal boarding school in the state and meet with girl students to find out if they have suffered sexual abuse or have any other issues with school staff.