Bihar: Skeletons tumble out of shelter home cupboard

Bihar: Skeletons tumble out of shelter home cupboard

Balika Grih is the disgraced shelter home where 29 girls, out of a total of 44 inmates, were reportedly raped. (Photo: Mohan Prasad)

Amid the din and bustle of an overcrowded Muzaffarpur in north Bihar, everyone on the street is more than willing to tell you the location of 'Balika Grih', but very few would like to talk about it.

Balika Grih is the disgraced shelter home where 29 girls, out of a total of 44 inmates, were reportedly raped. The incident has earned a bad name to this commercial town, barely a 150-minute drive from the state capital.

"All these accused are big shots. Mujhe mat ghasitiye inn sab baaton mein. (Please don't drag me into this mess)," says one of the neighbours of Brajesh Thakur, the main accused, who looked after Balika Grih through his NGO Seva Sankalp Avam Vikas Samiti.

Thakur is one of the ten accused arrested in the case while the 11th suspect, Dilip Verma, is absconding.

Once you enter the serpentine narrow lane of Choti Kalyani, the seven-foot-wide road ends at a house where 50 policemen stand guard.

This is the premises where stands the shelter home (now sealed), a newspaper office and the residential house of Thakur. All in the same campus.

The shelter home has no window, no balcony, no open space to breath properly, but neighbours, on the condition of anonymity, say that it was internally connected to the building from where Thakur reportedly ran his newspaper Pratah Kamal (Morning Lotus).

"The main tormentor Thakur was doing all these deeds in the guise of a journalist. He also runs a hotel called Prince Hotel. Before the incident came to light, entrance to this place was 'free-for-all'," said a local, again on the condition of anonymity.

Nikita Anand, Thakur's daughter, however, said her father was innocent.

"My father runs an NGO called Seva Sankalp Avam Vikas Samiti. This NGO looks after 'Balika Grih' with prior permission of the state government. My father was unnecessarily arrested even though he was initially not named in the FIR," Nikita told DH.

When Leader of the Opposition Tejashwi Yadav visited the place, he said the Bihar Police had not taken Thakur on remand as he shared dais with Nitish Kumar during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Tejashwi also said Thakur also enjoyed the patronage of Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi.

But more scathing allegations were made by Shiva Singh, wife of district child protection officer (CPO) Ravi Raushan, who was arrested along with Thakur.

"Chandeshwar Verma, the husband of Social Welfare Minister Manju Verma, used to frequently visit Balika Grih. He would leave his securitymen at the entrance gate and spend hours with inmates," she said.

The minister admitted that her husband visited the shelter home once in February but stoutly denied any wrong-doing. "Since the government is taking action against the culprits, my husband is being made a scapegoat," said the minister, adding that she was ready "for any kind of probe".

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