Accused of raping a minor, former labour minister and RJD MLA from Nawada Raj Ballabh Prasad alias Raj Ballabh Yadav continues to be on the run, having managed to evade a police hunt for 22 days now.
Back in Nawada, the alleged victim’s family hopes she will be able to take her coming Class X board exams. The government has provided a counsellor and a teacher to get her ready.
Since the alleged incident, the girl has moved back home to her village, vacating the rented house where her father had put her up and her two siblings, at a colony in Biharsharif, 13 km away, so that they could go to a good school.
Most houses in the Biharsharif colony have students from across the Nawada district living on rent to study. While the girl’s father earns barely Rs 10,000-Rs 12,000 a month from his small village provision store, he had decided to send his three children to Biharsharif for their education.
The counsellor is helping the victim “get over her psychological turmoil” so that she can write her exams, says Nalanda District Magistrate Thiyagarajan SM. A high school teacher is helping prepare her for the exam. “That is the teacher’s prime job. Once she is able to write her papers, she can cross the first psychological barrier,” a relative says they have been told. The Nalanda district administration has also promised her security when she comes to Biharsharif to write her papers.
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However, with the MLA still absconding, the family remains scared. For the past 16 days, her elder sister and younger brother have also been at home in the village, too scared to go to school. Her sister is in Class XII.
Last week on Thursday, police arrested Sulekha Devi, her daughter Chhoti Devi (who was a neighbour of the girl at Biharsharif), Sulekha’s mother Radha Devi and cousin Tushi Devi.
The women allegedly lured the girl to accompany them to a birthday party and took her to the MLA’s residence instead, where she was allegedly raped on February 6.
Her father registered an FIR on February 9 after she revealed to the family what had allegedly happened and she was taken to the spot to identify the location and the accused the next day.
According to the victim’s statement to Nalanda police, on spotting the MLA who was on his way out of the house, the girl immediately told the police team with her, “Jo uncle ghar se baahar nikal rahe hai unhone hi mere saath galat kaam kiya (The uncle leaving the house is the one who raped me).”
It was only after Patna Range DIG Shalin ordered the arrest of Yadav that the matter became public.
The girl had allegedly befriended Chhoti Devi (18), who is married but lives with her parents. It was Sulekha who reportedly asked Chhoti to take the girl to the MLA’s house, and the two allegedly made an excuse that they wanted her to accompany them to a birthday party at Bakhtiyarpur, 40 km away.
“We left for Bakhtiyarpur at about 4 pm. When we reached Bakhtiyarpur, Chhoti’s husband joined us in a four-wheeler. When I asked why we were travelling further, I was told the birthday venue was some distance away. We reached a double-storey house where I was told that a teacher would meet me and help me with my board examinations,” she said in the FIR.
The girl said that inside, in a second-floor room, a “40-50-year-old” was waiting for them and drinking. “We were offered drinks too. I refused but Sulekha accepted and later asked me to do what the ‘master saheb’ asks me. I was threatened that I would be handed over to the man’s servants and bodyguards if I did not listen to him,” the girl said in the FIR, also alleging that Sulekha was paid a large sum of money by the man.
Police admit that they showed the girl several photographs of possible suspects and she had only identified Yadav among them. A senior police officer said: “She identified the MLA in person as well as in photographs. She did not budge from her statement even when she came to know the accused was a powerful MLA.”
Yadav, 55, controls sand and stone contracts in the area. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar too belongs to Nalanda, and the charges against the MLA have given an opening to his opponents to again allege “return of jungle raj”. A Nalanda court has rejected anticipatory bail for Yadav, and on Sunday police began attaching his property, starting with the house where the alleged rape took place.
The girl’s family says they are under threat. Her medical report was done only by a single doctor though a team was to have examined her. The National Women Commission and Nalanda DM had to intervene to get a medical board to conduct the girl’s examination afresh.
The victim’s family is not sure if she would return to Biharsharif to study after the exams. “We would like her to study, but we want Yadav behind bars,” says a relative.