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regular-article-logo Sunday, 14 July 2024

Bihar job shock: Women ‘held captive, tortured and raped’ for months

The crime would have continued under wraps but for a survivor who dared to approach the local court earlier this year, following which the police registered an FIR at Ahiyapur police station on June 2

Dev Raj Patna Published 19.06.24, 05:39 AM
Accused Tilak Kumar Singh after his arrest on Tuesday.

Accused Tilak Kumar Singh after his arrest on Tuesday. Picture by Sanjay Choudhary.

Several women in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur were allegedly held captive, tortured and raped for months after being recruited by a telemarketing and networking company, a case which has a striking resemblance to the Muzaffarpur Balika Griha shelter home atrocities reported in 2018.

One of the accused involved in the latest case was arrested on Tuesday. The crime would have continued under wraps but for a survivor who dared to approach the local court earlier this year, following which the police registered an FIR at Ahiyapur police station on June 2.

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While the survivor was waiting for action in the case, a video clip purporting to show the torture and abuse of girls went viral on social media on Monday, leading to widespread condemnation of the police’s alleged inaction. The police then arrested Tilak Kumar Singh from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh.

“We have arrested one Tilak Kumar Singh from Gorakhpur. He is one of the nine accused in the case and is being brought to Muzaffarpur. Efforts are on to arrest the other accused,” Muzaffarpur senior superintendent of police (SSP) Rakesh Kumar told The Telegraph.

The other accused include Manish Pratap Singh, Enamul Ansari, Ahmad Raza, Vijay Giri, Kanhaiya Kushwaha, Hridyanand Singh, Hareram Kumar and Irfan. While Manish is said to be from Noida, the others are from different parts of Bihar.

The survivor has alleged that she joined the telemarketing and networking company DBR Unique in June 2022 after watching its advertisement on social media. Hareram Kumar got in touch with her and promised to offer 15,000 per month as salary. She accepted the offer and was asked to deposit 20,500 for “training”, which she did by taking a loan from one of her aunts.

“I joined the company in Muzaffarpur. There were several other girls. We were kept in a room and put through classes on how to convince customers over the phone and connect with more people and attract them to the company for jobs. Our work started after 15 days of training,” the survivor told reporters.

“We were kept in rooms in Muzaffarpur, Hajipur (Vaishali district) and other places and forced to get more girls. Those who refused to work and wanted to leave were tortured and raped. All of us were held captive. The girls were allowed to call home once in a while but only in the presence of the people from the company,” she added.

The survivor said she refused to work any further after connecting 21 girls to the company. She was tortured, raped and had to undergo an abortion, she said. Several other girls suffered the same fate, according to the survivor. Around 200 girls worked with the company. The accused persons also promised to marry her and other girls to keep them subdued, she said.

SSP Rakesh Kumar, however, told this newspaper that the matter was not of the kind it was being portrayed as no other girls had come forward with similar accusations so far.

“We are not denying anything at this juncture and we are accepting the video that has been circulated as true. But this case seems to be of cheating, promising marriage to enter into a physical relationship and abortion. We asked the victim to provide details of the abortion and the clinic where she underwent the procedure but she said it was done with the help of local remedies and medicines,” the SSP said.

The SSP added that the police raided the company in Muzaffarpur where over 50 men and no women were working. “They said they were beaten up at times but denied rape of girls,” he said.

The Muzaffarpur police, however, added that the company’s records were poor and several cases were registered against it in different districts. “One case — FIR number 607/23 — was registered at the same Ahiyapur police station last year by a person, who accused it of cheating and extortion. Seven persons were arrested in this connection,” the SSP said.

The Opposition RJD, however, alleged the involvement of politicians from the ruling NDA.

“This will keep happening here. We have a few politicians who supply girls to those in power. At times they become ministers and MPs. Who forms fake companies? They are the people who resort to crimes against women and supply them to others. Such people even go to the Rajya Sabha. They will disclose everything if things are dealt with firmly,” RJD MLA and spokesperson Bhai Virendra said.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JDU said the police were investigating the case. “We have got information that some firm in Muzaffarpur used to lure girls on Facebook and misbehaved with them. A case has been registered. The police are taking action,” JDU MLC and spokesperson Niraj Kumar said.

In 2018, owners of the NGO Muzaffarpur Balika Griha (shelter home for girls), which ran the unit for the Bihar social welfare department, were accused of raping and torturing at least 34 of the 42 girls who stayed there.

The Supreme Court convicted kingpin Brajesh Thakur and 18 others in January 2020 after a CBI probe. The incident is widely considered to be the plot of the Netflix film Bhakshak released earlier this year. The plot is woven around a place called “Munnawarpur”.

The CBI has not closed the case and is still conducting investigations. It registered an FIR in July 2023 in Patna in connection with the disappearance of a girl from Hazaribagh in Jharkhand. She was allegedly handed over to fake parents who visited the Balika Griha to claim her.

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