At least 6 girls 'raped for months' in school
Nagpur, Nov. 4: Allegations that at least six prepubescent tribal girls were raped for months at a residential school in Maharashtra have led to the arrest of 11 people associated with the institution, including its president, secretary and principal.
Two other employees of Kokare Adivasi Ashram Shala, a government-aided school for tribal students at Lokhand Pala village in Buldana district, about 350km from Nagpur, are on the run, police said.
Among those arrested are two women helpers at the school, which houses about 420 students of Class I to VIII from across Buldana and neighbouring districts. The state government today formed a special investigation team.
Officers said the number of victims could be higher, as more girls had begun to come forward after a pupil's father lodged the first complaint last evening.
The main accused, police sources said, is Itusingh Pawar, a former student whom the school had appointed as an agent to bring it pupils from the tribal communities.
He is not a full-time school employee but lives inside the compound. Most of the victims are distantly related to him, officers said.
Itusingh alone has been charged with rape, with the rest booked under child protection and juvenile justice laws.
State tribal welfare minister Vishnu Sawra said the government was withdrawing affiliation and grant to the education society, run by a former Nationalist Congress Party MLA, that manages the fully aided school.
Its pupils, who are mainly from the districts of Buldana, Akola and Jalgaon, would be enrolled in other government schools immediately, Sawra said. He added that the government would look after the victims.
A Class IV student aged around 12 had complained of severe stomach pain after returning home to Halkhed village in Jalgaon, about 120km from the school, during Diwali.
A doctor told her parents two days ago that she had been sexually abused. The girl confirmed this. Marathi dailies quoted Halkhed residents as saying that three girls had looked sick after returning from school and remained aloof from the festivities.
Fifteen school employees were detained for questioning after the first complaint, and 11 were arrested, Buldana police chief Sanjay Baviskar told The Telegraph. A local court today remanded them in police custody till November 6.
A second complaint was lodged this evening by another parent from Halkhed. All the known victims, who are from various districts, are being treated in a private hospital in Akola city.
After the first girl confirmed being sexually abused, her parents, who are farm labourers, approached the village's woman sarpanch. She took them to BJP politician and former minister Eknath Khadse, the local MLA.
Minister Sawra, who visited the school today, said all the accused employees had been suspended.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has announced a survey, by women officers, of all the tribal residential schools in the state.