THE Gadchiroli police arrested Ajay Yanganti, known as a BJP leader in Sironcha tahsil of the district, for allegedly sexually exploiting a minor girl for over one year. “We arrested him on Monday evening after the case was referred to us from Gadchiroli, where the girl was staying in a protection home of the District Child Welfare Committee,” assistant inspector, Asarali police station, Rameshwar Darade told The Indian Express.
A local court later sent Yanganti to three days’ police custody. An offence was registered against Yanganti at Gadchiroli Sunday under Section 376 of the IPC (rape), and relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Prevention of Child Marriage Act. “The girl, 17, narrated her story to District Women and Child Welfare Officer Anil Bhadange. Bhadange in turn approached us with a complaint. So we registered an offence against Yanganti after she gave us statement. But since the matter belonged to Ankisa, we sent it for further action to the Asarali police station,” said assistant police inspector, Gadchiroli, Tejaswini Patil.
The girl told the police that her mother had forcibly married her off when she was just 15 and lived in Ankisa village. “She didn’t like the man she was married to. So she returned to her mother, who allegedly beat her up and harassed her to return to her husband. The girl then got into a hostel run by Yanganti at Asarali (in Sironcha tahsil). Yanganti, 40, lives in Hyderabad along with his wife and children and frequents Sironcha for business. He apparently lured the girl into a relationship promising to marry her and had been sexually exploiting her for the last one year,” Patil said.
While BJP MP from Gadchiroli Ashok Nete said Yanganti “is not our party leader or office-bearer”, the latter is known in Sironcha as a BJP man. His photographs often appear on party hoardings with ‘Sironcha taluka prabhari’ captioned below. He is also a regular at BJP programmes and can be seen in photographs standing close to Gadchiroli District Guardian Minister Ambarish Atram, BJP MLA from Aheri, and Nete. Atram could not be reached for a comment as he did not respond to repeated calls and messages. Atram, incidentally, had fought the 2014 elections on BJP ticket but represents local front Nag Vidarbha Samiti.