33 inmates flee juvenile home, 15 apprehended
Of the lot, 15 were apprehended by the police and brought back to the rehabilitation centre by Sunday afternoon. The rest are still at large.
All the juveniles are in the age bracket of 16-18 years, and most of them are said to be involved in heinous crimes.
An official said the riotous behaviour started at around 8 pm, after a security guard refused to give the boys drugs. Some of the juveniles started saying: “Mujhe toh nasha chahiye (I want drugs)”.
“When the guard refused, they beat him up. Then, a group of 50 boys started breaking tube lights and windowpanes. It continued till 10:30 pm. We had already informed the police about the incident at around 8:15 pm,” a welfare officer told Deccan Herald.
Police, surprisingly, arrived in time but stood by, citing the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, which prevented them from acting in this situation. “Thirty-three juveniles fled from the observational home as the act prevented us from entering its premises,” said the officer.
Just when the security guards thought the situation was under control, the juveniles set fire to the duty officer’s room. “They also set fire to the medical room and welfare officer’s room. They burnt all the official records. After that, they set ablaze the superintendent officer’s office and even the computer and air conditioner. They literally burnt everything to ashes,” said the officer.
At around 2 am, some 58 juveniles took an LPG cylinder on the roof. “We thought the situation was out of hand, so we convinced 73 boys from the reception room and other dormitories to come to the playground. Some 58 boys exploded the cylinder and threw it down,” added the officer.
Of the 58 inmates, 33 jumped off the roof onto a ground behind the building and escaped.
According to the welfare officer, police captured 15 boys at around 9 am. “They brought them back to the home only after noon. Around five boys had bruises on their body. They said the police had beaten them up,” he said.
The observation home houses 128 boys. A welfare officer, 21 security guards, three caretakers and two house-fathers were present at the rehabilitation centre on Saturday night.
According to a senior officer in the Department of Women and Child Development, six boys, known to be habitual offenders, steered the ruckus. Of them, three were transferred to this home in August from the state-run Adharshila observation home at Majnu Ka Tila in north Delhi.
The incident once again raises questions about the implementation of the juvenile justice system in the city.
“There should be some changes in the rules when it comes to juveniles between the ages of 16 and 18. We can’t control them. The JJ Act has tied our hands, and we are helpless when they are up to something extreme,” said the senior officer. “Police cannot enter the premises of juvenile homes. If we ask them for help, they demand a written order.”