11 arrested for alleged sexual abuse of 12 tribal girls in Maharashtra

The barbaric episode came to light when the girls visited their native village in Jalgaon District for Diwali, but were silent and moping sitting in a corner.

In a heart-wrenching incident, 12 minor girls have been allegedly sexually assaulted by their teachers and headmaster.

The incident being reported is of Ninath Ashran School in Buldhana district of Maharashtra (450 km from Mumbai) which is locally known as an ashramshala, which caters to the educational needs of the most  disadvantaged families.

According to a News18 report, the Maharashtra DGP has ordered to form a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe into the incident. The team will be headed by special CID officer Aarti Singh who reached Buldhana last night. While other reports claim that, SIT has been formed under the leadership of IPS officer Shweta Khedekar to investigate this case.

Reportedly, the barbaric episode came to light when the girls visited their native village in Jalgaon District for Diwali, but were silent and moping sitting in a corner.

During Diwali, many girls were running and playing. But three girls (who are related to her) were sitting quietly in a corner. When we asked them why they were not playing, they said they had stomach pain and were feeling something heavy in their stomachs. When we took them to the doctor, he told us that these girls were pregnant,” DNA quoted Bulesterni Sati Bhosale, deputy sarpanch of Halkheda village, as saying.

It has been reported by The Hindu that the police have arrested sweeper Ittusingh Pawar, Kharat, superintendent-cum-rector Narayan Ambhore, assistant Swapnil Lakhe, cook Deepak Kokre, teachers Lalita Vajire, Mantha Kokre and Shewanta Raut, chairman of the school Gajanan Kokre, and trust members, Sanjay and Purushottam Kokre. However, Hindustan Times quoted Sanjaykumar Baviskar, Buldhana superintendent of police as saying, “The headmaster, Digambar Kharat has been arrested as under the law, he should have reported the matter to the police after the victim informed him.”

The incident reportedly took place a few days before Diwali. Baviskar ,SP of Buldhana said a case under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), POSCO Act and Juvenile Justice Act has been registered against the accused.

As per the latest reports, the 12 girls are currently admitted to a hospital in Akola district for proper medical attention.

Reportedly, Eknath Khadse, Muktainagar MLA said that everything possible to help the girls and their families was being done. News18 further reported that the police said that it is possible that other cases of sexual assault on the girls in the school might also come out now.

According to a report in The Times of India, a panel report had pointed out that almost 800 students have died in such ashram schools over 10 years because of poor sanitation and security, medical neglect and food poisoning.One of the other findings of the panel was the absence of women superintendents, auxiliary nurses and social workers to attend to the children.

The case has already got political attention, paving way for political allegations. Nawab Malik, opposition Nationalist Congress Party spokesperson said, “After one girl who got pregnant raised her voice, other girls came forward. Initially, the police were unwilling to file a complaint but after political intervention, a case has been registered.”

He went on to demand the resignation of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on moral grounds and said all students, including boys and girls studying at ashramshalas across the state, must be taken for medical tests. “With this, we will come to know how many students are facing such sexual assaults so that the culprits can be punished,” Malik told reporters.