Rohtak Apna Ghar case: Jaswanti Devi, predator in the garb of a protector
Jaswanti Devi stands convicted of shocking sexual and physical abuse of inmates inside Apna Ghar, a shelter home that she ran later, which came to light in 2012.india Updated: Apr 21, 2018 09:59 IST
Jasphool Singh, 63, who runs a non-government organisation (NGO) in Haryana’s Rohtak region since 1983, recalls the days in the early 1990s when he employed Jaswanti Devi. She now stands convicted of shocking sexual and physical abuse of inmates inside Apna Ghar, a shelter home that she ran later, which came to light in 2012.“Though I was not in need of staff as such, I gave her the job to draft project reports and other small, clerical works,” he said.
“I gave her the job on the recommendation of a local Red Cross official, seeing her apparently poor financial situation,” he added.
She left his NGO a year later, and in 1995 set up her own, Bharat Vikas Sangh, that started Apna Ghar shelter home in a middle-class locality, Shrinagar Colony, in Rohtak.Many of her acquaintances recall that soon after forming her own NGO, she fast developed contacts in the power corridors. Jasphool said that months before her arrest, she had met him at a public function: “Sitting next to me, she was bragging how politicians and officers visit her regularly.”
She originally belonged to Bahu Akbarpur village of Rohtak; her grandfather used to ferry passengers in a horse carriage (tonga), while her father, after retiring from military service, got attached to a religious sect. As per the report of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), she was the second wife of a man named Prem Singh Narwal, whom she later divorced.
A then member of the NCPCR, Vinod Kumar Tikoo, who raided Apna Ghar premises on May 9, 2012, and got her arrested, said her office wall was full of pictures showing her with politicians. “She even began dropping names of high-profile people during the raid.”More than 100 inmates were rescued following the raid, and what came out was horrifying sexual exploitation of minor, adult, even physically challenged, girls.The matter was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) following a report of a high court-appointed committee.
Jaswanti was not alone in her misdeeds; her daughter Simi, son-in-law Jai Bhagwan, brother Jaswant, driver Satish and three employees were part of the crime too.
Was feted, funded
Before the horror came to light, she was even nominated as a member of the local juvenile justice board. Months before her arrest, she was feted with the prestigious Indira Gandhi Mahila Shakti Award by the Haryana government.
Her NGO was being funded by the state and central govenrments for 13 programmes. Besides running the destitute home, the Apna Ghar complex also housed a Mahila Awaas (Woman’s Shelter Home) for the mentally challenged; it was also the premises for a creche programme, a vocational training programme, besides a family counselling centre and a runway couple home. It was also involved in a state-level campaign against human trafficking. As result, she had more than 100 inmates, mostly girls and women from their tender years to old age.
Another social worker from Sonepat, Om Parkash Dahiya, said she often approached him for technical assistance in government projects. “She was hardworking and bold in her approach, and used her networking skills well to get close to people who mattered most in the power circles.”The fact that she came from the dominant Jat community helped her get close to key leaders too, said another old associate who refused to be named.
Advocate Anil Malhotra, who headed the HC-appointed special investigation team, said Jaswanti’s case was a horror story. “I along with other members literally broke down while interviewing the victims. Given the gravity of the offences, punishment to be imposed on Jaswanti and her kin should be exemplary,” he said.
The quantum of punishment is set to be pronounced on April 24 by the special CBI court that on April 18 convicted nine of the 10 accused.
Jaswanti was not alone in her misdeeds; her daughter Simi, son-in-law Jai Bhagwan, brother Jaswant, driver Satish and three employees were part of the crime too. They have been convicted for offences of rape, miscarriage, immoral trafficking, physical assault, and unlawful forced labour. Another woman named Roshni has ben convicted for buying a newborn.
There were 121 prosecution witnesses who were examined during the trial while the defence counsel produced 26 witnesses. Evidence of three of 10 inmates who were allegedly raped was crucial as they had not just identified the accused, but even narrated the horror.