Updated: January 21, 2021 8:22:25 am
“I kept begging them to let me go home to my 8-month-old daughter. I was beaten up, abused and threatened,” recounted a 20-year-old woman lodged at a Ujjawala home in Chhattisgarh’s Bilaspur.
Three women, including the 20-year-old, have alleged that the staff of the NGO Shiv Mangal Shikshan Samiti, which runs the Ujjawala home, not only mistreated the women but also sexually abused them. They have also alleged that the staff were running a sex racket.
Ujjawala is a sub-scheme of the Centrally-sponsored umbrella scheme ‘Protection and Empowerment of Women’ under the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Shiv Mangal Shikshan Samiti’s audit report for 2019-20 shows it received WCD grants of Rs 14.59 lakh.
The women and their families approached the police but were allegedly threatened and abused by the officials. Three days after an FIR under bailable sections was registered against unidentified people, the police have not yet got any medical tests done.
On Wednesday, they moved another application addressed to Bilaspur range IG Ratan Lal Dangi. The application mentions instances of physical and sexual abuse along with intimidation and demands for money by the staff of the Ujjawala home.
Police said the women’s statements will be recorded in front of a district magistrate on Thursday. “We didn’t get any medical test done because the women didn’t want it. They said they had heard of sexual offences being committed but denied being a victim. We are investigating. If the women say they were subjected to violence, we will get it checked,” SP Prashant Agrawal said.
When contacted, Jitendra Mourya, President of Shiv Mangal Shikshan Samiti, denied the allegations. He has also registered a complaint with the police accusing the family of one of the women of breaking in and using obscene language.
“The Women and Child Development department has set up their team and officials have been going through all our records. These women are lying and they have no proof of anything they say. We keep women brought to us by police,” Mourya told The Indian Express.
Seven other women staying at the home have been sent to a Sakhi centre for now, he said.
The 20-year-old said that on the evening of January 16, she left her home after an argument with her husband. “About 3 km from my home, I met an elderly man who asked me where I was going. Because I was crying, he called someone and soon, a staffer from Ujjawala home came to pick me up.”
“I was told that I would be allowed to go the next morning, but in the morning, the women staff told me that I couldn’t leave,” she said.
The 20-year-old was kept in a room with a 19-year-old living there since January 8 and an 18-year-old rape victim. The 18-year-old, she alleged, faced further sexual abuse at the shelter.
“The shelter would convince our families that we needed medicines to keep us sane. We were drugged by tablets in our tea and water,” the 19-year-old said. “If we didn’t listen to them, they would lock us up nude.”
The 20-year-old alleged that on January 17, when she tried to escape, she was assaulted and touched inappropriately by Jitendra Maurya, manager of the shelter home.
The three were rescued after the 20-year-old’s husband and father came looking. Her husband said they were not releasing her despite showing proof. “They made me run from pillar to post and even then refused to send her with me or her father. Then they started beating them up. That’s when her sisters and other women relatives with us went inside and freed the three women,” he said.
The three women submitted a complaint at the local police station which was not accepted on January 17. They alleged that the police pressured them while recording statements. “We were told what to say on camera before they recorded our statements on video. We were silenced when we tried to talk about the sexual offences,” one woman said.
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