Even as police have arrested nine people in the Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual abuse case, including the owner of a Hindi daily in north Bihar, Opposition RJD on Wednesday took potshots at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, asking how the newspaper has been getting government advertisements even though the Chief Minister “often talks about moral propriety”.
The arrests came after the state government’s Social Welfare Department filed a case against the management of Seva Sankalp Evam VikasSamiti, the NGO which ran the shelter home.
Forty-four minor girls who lived in the home were moved to other shelter homes a fortnight ago after a social audit by a team from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) reported complaints of sexual abuse of minors.
The NGO has on its board Brajesh Thakur, who owns the local Hindi newspaper Pratah Kamal and is one of the nine arrested.
Speaking with local reporters before his arrest on Sunday, Thakur claimed all allegations against him were baseless and driven by a “deep-rooted conspiracy” to tarnish his image.
The FIR was filed against unknown persons on June 1. Muzaffarpur Senior Superintendent of Police Harpreet Kaur said, “Although no one had been named in the FIR filed by the Social Welfare Department, we questioned nine people and arrested them.”
Muzaffarpur women police station in-charge Jyoti Kumari said, “We have recorded statements of the accused and victims, and also got medical examinations of several victims done.”
Asked whether the police questioned Thakur, she said, “We have also spoken with him.”
Besides Thakur, the others arrested are Indu Kumari, superintendent of the shelter home; Minu Kumari, Manju Devi, Hema Masih, Neha Kumari, Kiran Kumari and Chanda Devi — all staff of the state government-funded shelter home and the NGO; and Muzaffarpur Child Welfare Committee member Vikas Kumar.
Taking a dig at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Leader of Opposition in Assembly Tejashwi Yadav on Wednesday said, “I want to know how the newspaper whose owner has been arrested in connection with such a serious case can get advertisement from Public Relations Department of the state government. Since the CM often talks of propriety and moral values, one should know how much Thakur’s newspaper gets in a year.”
A Public Relations Department official said all due process were followed in issuing government advertisements to Pratah Kamal.
JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar told The Indian Express, “How a newspaper gets government advertisement is decided by some set rules of the Public Relations Department. Tejashwi should know that Muzaffarpur police had made some key arrests in the case. Targeting the government for the sake of it does not behove the leader of Opposition.”
The FIR quoted the TISS report saying: “The girl children’s home in Muzaffarpur, run by Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti, was both found by us to be running a highly questionable manner along with grave instances of violence that was reported by the residents. Several girls reported about violence and being abused sexually. This is very serious and needs to be further investigated promptly. Immediate legal procedure must be followed to inquire into the charges, and corrective measures be taken.”