New Delhi: Last week, the government passed the much awaited Anti-rape Bill. The Bill promises to tackle sexual crime. But will it really make a difference, especially in the remote corners of this country. An IBN7 investigation exposed how young tribal girls are being sexually abused in government-run homes and schools in Chhattisgarh.
Minor girls studying in the State-run Ashrams meant to provide education and boarding facilities for poor tribals in Chhattisgarh are being sexually assaulted, pushed into prostitution by their own teachers.
Girls face violence and sexual abuse and admit on camera that they were raped and abused by hostel officials. In January 2013, medical tests confirmed 11 girls were sexually abused at Jhaliamari Kanya Ashram.
The ashram came under scanner after death of a 12-year-old in 2012. The Official cause of the 12-year-old girl's death was given as jaundice. However, on a hidden camera the government hospital doctor admitted the girl underwent a pregnancy test.
Meanwhile, a 17-year-old girl alleged that she was being forced into sex racket by her own hostel warden Anita Thakur. After public outrage the police filed an FIR and arrested Anita.
In 2006, Chief Minister Raman Singh announced the Aadarsh Ashram and Chatravas Yojna - opening 2600 hostels to house and educate children from Tribal and other backward classes. The central government poured several crores into the project. But in January 2013, medical tests confirmed that 11 girls at the Jhaliamari Kanya Ashram had been sexually abused.
Singh sadi, "I have ordered that a fast track court in the district decides on this case."
The Jhaliamari Ashram came under the scanner after the death of a 12-year-old in August 2012. Eight people were arrested - including a teacher, security guard and hostel warden at the ashram. Swastha Adhikari, Narharpur DOC, Dr Prashant Singh had said, "Water had accumulated in her stomach and she died of jaundice and severe anemia."
On hidden camera, the same doctor admitted the girl was given a pregnancy test but did not test positive.
Her family admits receiving threats to stay silent. The mother of the 12-year-old who survived the abuse said, "He used to drink and come, he sexually assaulted my daughter, what he did to my child was wrong."
The parents now want their children back but the administration has sent them to other government hostels. "They have told us that the girls will stay on in the hostels, we have been asked not to worry. If this has happened to other girls, it could happen to our children. We are scared," said one of the parent.
Equally shocking is how the sexual abuse went unnoticed for four years, even though Ashram guidelines say the girls must have weekly health check-ups. The district collector, too, refused to meet us.
In violation of an order by state government, since 2009 there have been no monitoring or inspection at the local level. As a result poor, Adivasi girls had to pay the price for sheer callousness and negligence of the district administration.
After living in a state of terror for nearly seven years, two girls from the North Bastar region of Chhattisgarh gathered the courage to speak up. They recall the horror of how they were pushed into prostitution by their hostel warden Anita Thakur. The girls also said that many more were abused but are scared to speak up.
"I was told I had to work with other girls, when I went into the room, madam closed the door behind me," said one of the victims.
In 2006, a 17-year-old girl forced into a sex racket allegedly by her own hostel warden. The girl was in class seven then, the trauma forcing her to leave school, sending her into depression for three years. Today she has regained the strength to speak out.
"There were a lot of girls like me, they had given statements earlier. But now they are afraid to speak up," said the victim.
Her father who has three other daughters says he blames himself. "I have four daughters, I just wanted them to have an education, I should never have put them in the ashram, I could not imagine this would happen," he said.
Shockingly, the Chhattisgarh government actually gave Anita the best hostel warden award in January 2013. The Balod collector could not explain how the alleged sex racket run by Anita at the Amatola Ashram, went undetected for seven years. Balod Collector Amit Kumar Khalko said, "We had not recommended Anita Thakur's name for any award. This incident is from 2006, I am sure there was a probe into it at that time too."
Even the Chief Minister gave no answers. "I cannot give you any answers in this regard," said Singh.
But the girl was not the only student exploited at the Ashram. The investigation has accessed seven affidavits, given by students of the Amatola Ashram, clearly stating how the warden forced them into a sex racket. Another victim recalls when she was just 13, she was brutalised repeatedly in 2006. "I was called into a room, the warden closed the curtains. I was raped but I could not understand what was happening, I was very young at that time. They have ruined the lives of so many girls like me. How long will this go on for," she asks.
Activists working on the issue in Chhattisgarh are demanding justice. Activist Ranjeet Markam said, "We demand a CBI probe into the sexual assault of our children we demand justice."
The sexual abuse and violence faced by these girls, going undetected for years, raises serious questions about Chhattisgarh's tribal hostel program.