BJP leader and former chief minister Babulal Marandi’s political advisor, Sunil Tiwari, accused of sexually harassing a minor tribal girl in Ranchi, was arrested from a locality in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, sources in Argora police station where an FIR was lodged against him, said.
Tiwari, police said, was on the run since his plea for interim bail was rejected by a Ranchi court. Later, another case was lodged against him in connection with child labour.
A tribal girl from Khunti, who claimed to have worked as a domestic help at Tiwari’s Ashok Nagar residence, lodged an FIR with the Argora police station in Ranchi on August 16, accusing Tiwari of sexual exploitation and coercion for sexual favours. Tiwari has also been booked under sections of the ST/SC Atrocities Act, police said.
“Three teams from Ranchi police were constituted to track and arrest Sunil Tiwari. He was arrested this morning from a locality somewhere between Agra and New Delhi,” said a police official. “He will be brought to Ranchi once all formalities are completed in UP,” he added.
In her FIR, the girl has alleged that Tiwari forced her for sexual favours in the absence of other family members and threatened her to stay mum or face consequences. She has also accused Tiwari of beating her up when she resisted his sexual advances.
According to the girl's statement, she was victimized for the first time in March 2020, but she could not move out of Tiwari’s house due to Covid restrictions. After several months, she shared her ordeal with her family in Khunti and decided to lodge an FIR, police said.
In the last week of August, a Ranchi court had issued an arrest warrant against Tiwari on charges of sexual exploitation.
Tiwari's arrest prompted the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) to target the BJP. JMM general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya questioned the BJP’s stand against crimes against women, claiming that the party’s protective attitude towards a person accused of a heinous crime against a tribal woman showed its leaders’ actual stand against such crimes.
The BJP, on the other hand, termed the incident "political vendetta", claiming that Tiwari was framed because he knocked on the door of the apex court, demanding a directive to the Mumbai High Court to hear a matter related to allegations of sexual exploitation against Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren.