Taking suo moto cognizance of the reported mass sexual exploitation of minor girls at a shelter home in Muzaffarpur, the Supreme Court Thursday issued notices to the Bihar government and the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry. Expressing concern over the identity of victims being revealed by the media, the apex court also directed them not to publish any images or videos of the victims, even in blurred or morphed form. The SC also barred the media from conducting any interviews with the minor victims.
The development comes at a time when the Opposition has mounted its criticism against the Nitish Kumar-led government over reports of physical abuse and sexual exploitation at short stay homes and shelters. In a report to the state government in April, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) claimed sexual exploitation of inmates at a number of short stay homes in the state.
The gravest of them were reported from the shelter home in Muzaffarpur, which was run by NGO Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti. Medical reports of 29 out of 34 inmates have suggested sexual exploitation. Till now, the police have arrested 11 in this case, including prime accused Brajesh Thakur, who is the owner of the NGO. Four shelter homes run by the NGO have been closed after a case alleging sexual exploitation was lodged on May 31.
Last week, the Bihar government handed over the investigation to the CBI. Moreover, what has added fuel to the fire is the fact that even though the TISS report was submitted in April, the state social welfare department sanctioned another project to Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti on the same day police lodged an FIR against the NGO. It has also emerged that the had a “ghost” secretary whom no official of the Bihar social welfare department had ever “seen or met”.
Meanwhile, Left parties in Bihar went ahead with their shutdown call, disrupting rail and road traffic. Left party workers and supporters blocked railway tracks affecting over a dozen trains since morning, IANS reported. Trains were stopped in Darbhanga, Madhubani, Jahanabad, Gaya, Muzaffarpur, Patna and Bhojpur districts. Protesters have also blocked several roads in Siwan, Bhojpur, Nawada, Patna, Arwal, Jagabad districts. The statewide shutdown call is backed by opposition parties, including RJD, Congress, Hindustani Swam Morcha, Samajwadi Party and Lokrantrik Janata Dal.