The Nijoloy home in Jalpaiguri town. Picture by Biplab Basak
Jalpaiguri, Sept. 9: Eleven girls, aged between 12 and 15 years, who were inmates of an NGO-run home, fled late last night and told police today that they were tortured by the staff at the shelter.
On Friday morning, three girls had run away from Nijoloy, located in Shilpasamitypara of Jalpaiguri town, but were tracked down close to the home and brought back.
They had tried to flee from a primary school where they studied, located across the road from the home, after prayers.
But last night, they fled again, this time with eight other girls.
The 11 girls spent last night sleeping at a Jalpaiguri resident’s verandah.
After they were apprehended this morning, the girls told the police and the district child welfare committee that they were being physically tortured by the home staff.
The child welfare committee has sent the girls to another private home in the town.
One of the girls said she and the others stayed in prison-like conditions.
“Last night around 2am, we managed to remove rods from a window and escaped. We roamed in the dark and later slept in an open verandah of a house. We are being badly treated and physically punished and do not want to return there,” she said.
She and the others said that their parents had kept them in the home as they were too poor to look after them.
“But over here we are locked up in a room each night. When we demand to be taken to a playground, we are beaten with sticks. They do not even make arrangements for us to meet our parents,” one of the girls said.
She said that yesterday she and another girl were beaten on the legs with an iron rod by the home superintendent.
Seema Pandey, on whose verandah the girls were sleeping in, said she was taken by surprise seeing the children there this morning.
“It was around 5.30am when I opened the door to the verandah and found them sleeping. I began talking to them and found that they were from Nijoloy. I informed the home and took the girls to the Kotwali police station,” she said.
Sudip Chatterjee, a member of the district child welfare committee under the state social welfare department, said the girls had been sent to Anubhav, a girls’ home run by the Jalpaiguri Welfare Society. “We have heard the allegations and we have asked the police to investigate. If they are true, we shall seek cancellation of the licence granted to Nijoloy,” he said.
The superintendent of Nijoloy, Kumkum Das, said the allegations were baseless. “There are 31 girls in our home and none of them is subjected to mental and physical torture. We have informed my higher-ups who are in Calcutta,” she said.
The deputy police superintendent (headquarters), Prabhat Chakrabarty, said: “We contacted the members of the child welfare committee. We are investigating the allegations made by the girls and we will take appropriate action if they are found to be correct.”
He said the superintendent of the home did not respond to calls to come to the police station.