A GUEST-house owned by the family of Meghalaya Home Minister H D R Lyngdoh is being investigated in what the officials fear could be a wide-spread sex racket involving several influential people. On January 6, Independent MLA Julius Kitbok Dorphang was arrested in Guwahati after a hunt of three weeks. Police officials confirmed that a 14-year-old, who filed an FIR on December 16, has said that she was taken to the guest-house, Marvelene’s Inn, located in posh Shillong locality Rilbong, several times to “serve clients”.
She has alleged that Dorphang raped her “at least on two occasions”, once at a guest-house at Motinagar in the city, and another time at a resort in Umiam, about 12 km from here. Marvelene’s Inn is run by Lyngdoh’s son Nathaniel Osbert Rymbai.
WATCH VIDEO | Guest-House Owned By Meghalaya Home Minister’s Family Under Probe For Alleged Sex Scam
“We have arrested nine people, and are looking for at least two more who are absconding. Those arrested include an employee of Marvelene’s Inn, and we are examining whether the owner and management of the inn were involved in the racket,” Shillong City SP Vivek Syiem told The Indian Express. An officer said one of the men they were looking for was an Army personnel.
Meena Kharkongor, chairperson of the Meghalaya State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR), that has filed a series of FIRs in the case, told The Indian Express that “names of important persons” are likely to come up as part of the investigation, and that more girls could be victims of the racket.
Six cases have been registered so far in connection with seven FIRs which followed the first FIR filed by the girl, under sections of the IPC, Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act and POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act). While six FIRs were filed by Kharkongor, two Shillong-based NGOs, Civil Society Womens’ Organisation and Thma U Ranglijuki, have filed a joint FIR at the Laban police station against the proprietor/owner(s)/management of Marvelene’s Inn. The MSCPCR has mentioned at least three guest-houses in its FIRs where the alleged assaults took place.
Marvelene’s Inn owner Rymbai denied any knowledge of the alleged sex racket. “I was informed by the manager of the guest-house that police came and picked up one waiter who would allegedly bring the girl there. Other than the arrested waiter, other waiters were oblivious of the presence of the girl in a room,” Rymbai said at a press conference four days ago. He has since remained unavailable for comment. On December 16, the girl approached Laban police station (which has jurisdiction over Rilbong), saying she was being sexually exploited and had the previous evening been taken to Marvelene’s Inn, to a client.
A police official who did not want to be named said the girl said she had been taken to the guest-house by a woman called Mamoni Parveen and her husband Sandeep Biswa, “between 8 and 9 pm” on December 15, and that waiter Usha Debbarman had taken her to a room and handed her over to a man called Madan Bahadur Thapa. The officer said that the girl had been taken to the hotel and had identified Debbarman.
While Debbarman was arrested on the spot, Parveen and Biswa were held on December 17. Thapa was arrested from Jhalupara in Shillong. The girl told The Indian Express that her mother died several years ago and she lived in her village with her father and stepmother. She had studied up to Class III and looked after the four children born to her stepmother. Two of her elder brothers, she has told police, work as drivers in Tura.
About a year ago, she said, a woman called Renu Bora came to the village and brought her to Shillong promising to hand her over to a family that would treat her like their daughter. “When the first woman I was taken to refused to keep me, Renu Bora took me to Mamoni Parveen, who said she would treat me like her daughter because she did not have one. But soon I was made to sleep with different persons, sometimes in the house itself, sometimes in different guest-houses and hotels,” the girl said, adding Parveen and Biswa took money from the clients.
She added that she was told to call Parveen and Biswa ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’. “On December 15, I was dropped at Marvelene’s Inn by mummy and daddy in the evening, and was picked up from there the next morning. I managed to run away when they were not at home on December 16, took Rs 20 from another woman in the same building, boarded a bus and got down somewhere. There I luckily met two women who took me to a police station,” she said.
“We are still trying to trace Renu Bora,” a police officer said. MLA Dorphang, arrested on January 6, is a former chairman of the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council, an armed rebel group. Having surrendered in 2007, he had got elected as an MLA in 2013.
Home Minister Lyngdoh refused to comment on the matter, saying he was not in Shillong and would talk on reaching back. SP Syiem confirmed that they were looking into the “involvement” of other guest-houses and resorts named by the MSCPCR and the two NGOs in their FIRs.
With protesters hitting the streets in Shillong, opposition parties are pressing CM Sangma to drop Lyngdoh and take “appropriate action” against him. “Lyngdoh should not be allowed to continue. How can police investigate freely when the Home Minister’s name is involved?” asked Donkupar Roy, leader of the opposition United Democratic Party.