Madhu Kumari, a woman suspect in the Muzaffarpur shelter-home case, and absconding since the police registered a case on May 31 against 11 people, was one among three “ati vishisht (very special)” women recommended by the district administration for the Zila Mahila Samman in October 2015. She claimed to be a social worker and was a key functionary in the NGO promoted by main accused Brajesh Thakur.
In a February 22 letter to the social welfare department secretary, accessed by The Indian Express, the Muzaffarpur District Magistrate wrote: “… In the wake of a decision taken by the district level committee, I am hereby sending three entries for Zila Mahila Samman. They are Rajkumari Devi (Kisan Chachi), Madhu Kumari and Malti Singh.”
The Zila Mahila Samman is awarded to one woman from each district for outstanding contribution in social service. The award this year was eventually received by Rajkumari Devi, a rural entrepreneur, for her innovative ideas in field of agriculture.
The shelter home came under the spotlight following a social audit report by TISS which detected large-scale complaints from inmates of sexual exploitation. Medical examination of the inmates confirmed sexual exploitation in the case of 29 of the 44 girls. The police registered a case against 11 people including Brajesh Thakur and Madhu Kumari on May 31. All 44 girls have since been shifted to short-stay homes in Madhubani, Patna and Mokama.
The CBI took over the case on July 29 following a recommendation by the state government, which was under attack from the Opposition. On August 2, the Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance of the reported mass exploitation of minor girls and issued notices to the Bihar government and the women and child development ministry.
In his supervision report, Muzaffarpur Town DySP Mukul Kumar Ranjan said, “Madhu is chief functionary (of Brajesh Thakur), who had been earlier running a flesh trade. She had been working with Brajesh Thakur’s NGO as a social worker for her clean image in society. Brajesh Thakur had very clearly used Madhu to extend his reach in Chaturbhuj Sthan (a red-light area). She had been made an official worker of Vama Shakti Vahini (another voluntary group of Thakur) and got its AIDS awareness projects for Betia and Muzaffarpur.”
The report further said, “Under the garb of a social worker, all workers of Thakur had been holding various positions with his NGO and other business.”
Madhu Kumari also claimed to be a correspondent with an Urdu daily Halaat-e-Bihar, run by Thakur’s family. A resident of Chaturbhuj Sthan, she had started working with Thakur since 2001. The state government has now delisted Halaat-e-Bihar and Pratah Kamal, another Hindi language daily run by Thakur, and cancelled the accreditation of its five journalists including Kumari.