A shelter for vulnerable girls in Bihar, India has garnered media attention after police arrested the shelter-owner for repeatedly raping almost 40 his residents. The girls, between the ages of 7 and 14, said that they were tortured, starved, injected with drugs, and raped almost every night.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) court heard that, “as soon as the sun set, the girls will be scared. The nights were full of terror.” The girls in referring to him as ‘hunterwala’ (predator) said that they used to shiver with fear whenever he entered their rooms.
“He (the shelter owner) used to beat us with a stick when we disobeyed him,” said one girl.
A 10-year-old girl said that she was often drugged before being raped. She would wake up with pain and injury marks on her private parts. “When I tried to resist (the rape), I was beaten up and made to starve for 3-days,” she said. She eventually not only had to surrender to the shelter owner’s perverse wish, but also had to apologize to him for spurning his advances.
Another girl said, “sedatives were mixed in my food due to which I used to feel dizzy. I was asked by the aunties to sleep in Brajesh sir’s (shelter owner’s) room. I used to find my pant thrown on the floor when I woke up in the morning.”
Yet another victim said, “Brajesh used to take me to his office and scratch my private parts. He scratched it so badly that there are cut marks in my private parts.”
The girls were forced to sleep naked in the shelter at night. The girls privately spat at his photo in disgust. One victim even etched the name of her brother in her arm as a sign of protest.
Neighbors said they used to hear the deafening screams of the girls, but fearing the shelter owner, no one raised the alarm. The shelter owner is a known gang leader in that area.
Brajesh Thakur is the owner of the non-government organization (NGO) which operated the shelter in which the 40 girls were raped. Allegations are rife that his atrocities did not come to light sooner as he was pally with state legislators. Thakur along with 10 of his men were held after a police report was made on May 31. Reports of repeated sexual abuse of the girls in the shelters only surfaced after Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Science carried out a social audit of shelter homes across Bihar last year. A district Child Welfare Committee official was also in cahoots with Thakur in the heinous act.
Thakur owns a premise with three buildings that had employee residences, a printing press, the family home besides the now infamous shelter. According to the police, Thakur earned over $350,000 per month from running the shelters for girls.
The rape of the over 40 young girls which had remained hidden despite many in the vicinity knowing about their ordeal has shocked the country.