ALMOST A week after the alleged rape of minor girls studying in a tribal ashram school in Buldhana came to light, the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has slammed the Tribal Development department and sought a detailed report on the incident. This is the first case of sexual assault in an ashram (residential) school that the SHRC has come across. Taking suo motu cognisance of the case based on news reports, the SHRC Monday issued notices to the Tribal Development Commissionerate, Nashik, and the Superintendent of Police in Nashik.
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“We have sought a report on how such incidents could take place in an ashram school and why they went unreported,” SHRC Chairperson S R Bannurmath told The Indian Express. He said if the report was not satisfactory, the SHRC would conduct an independent inquiry through its investigation wing. “While we have noticed cases of negligence in the past, this is the first time an incident of sexual assault has come to our notice,” said Bannurmath.
The case came to light after the family of a Class IV student at the Nanji Kokare Adivasi Ashramshala at Lokanda Pala in Khamgaon taluka of Buldhana district approached former minister Eknath Khadse earlier last week. Following 11 arrests Thursday, another girl from the same class came forward with a complaint Saturday.
The police have so far arrested 15 people, including prime accused Ittu Singh Pawar, who worked as a sweeper at the school. Others arrested include the president, secretary and joint secretary of the school for not reporting the incident. The school, too, was shut by the state government, which will now form teams of senior officials to pay visits and interact with girls in other government and aided tribal boarding schools to check whether there have been untoward incidents that have gone unreported.