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Harassment at Maharashtra hostel: Claims found to be untrue, says home minister

Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh on Thursday said the investigation into the incident, wherein women were allegedly forced to strip and dance by policemen at a government-run hostel in Jalgaon, found the claims to be untrue. The six-member women committee of senior officials found the allegations baseless and in its report said the policemen did not even enter the hostel.
By HT Correspondent, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 01:03 AM IST

Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh on Thursday said the investigation into the incident, wherein women were allegedly forced to strip and dance by policemen at a government-run hostel in Jalgaon, found the claims to be untrue. The six-member women committee of senior officials found the allegations baseless and in its report said the policemen did not even enter the hostel.

According to Deshmukh, the content of a video of a cultural programme organised by residents of Ashadeep Hostel was twisted out of context in a complaint by a woman, who is mentally challenged. Ashadeep is run by the state women and child development department, for destitute, mentally challenged women and survivors of sexual abuse.

It was earlier reported that some women from the hostel complained that people from outside and policemen were allowed to enter the facility on the pretext of a probe and some women were forced to strip and dance. The incident allegedly took place on February 2. The issue was raised by the BJP MLA from Chikhali, Buldhana, Shweta Mahale in the state Assembly on Wednesday and she demanded action. She said a video of the incident had also surfaced.

“A six-member committee of senior women officers, comprising a psychiatrist, police officer and others, were formed. They visited the hostel, spoke to other residents of the hostel, took their statements, checked the register and found the allegations unfounded. No policemen entered the hostel premises as they don’t have permission to do so because it is a women’s hostel,” Deshmukh told the state Assembly on Thursday. He said that the members of the hostel organised a cultural programme on February 20. While performing a garba, one of the women started feeling uncomfortable and she removed her frock. It was also found that the complainant is not mentally stable, according to her husband who had earlier requested that she be hospitalised for treatment, Deshmukh told the lower House.

After demands were made by the legislators, the home minister also assured action against the journalist who reported the incident without verifying the facts. “We will investigate the person who wrote the story and will take action against him,” he said.

Congress legislator Nana Patole and women and child development minister Yashomati Thakur demanded action. “This has not only defamed that particular institution, but also women residents. They will have to face the social stigma and thus those responsible should face action,” the women and child development minister said.

Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar asked people to be careful before raising any such matter in future. “The incident has defamed only the government but also the women residents of the hostel, district and the state. We have no objection over raising any such issues, but we need to be careful and verify the facts before raising them in public,” he urged.

The opposition, however, is not satisfied with the probe. BJP legislator and spokesperson Atul Bhatkhalkar said the state is facing a black rule. “How come the probe is completed in just a day? Was the probe video recorded? The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government termed the complainant as mentally unstable. This is nothing but a black rule,” Bhatkhalkar said.

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