A two-member Uttar Pradesh government investigation team looking into allegations of alleged sexual and physical abuse with girls at a shelter home in eastern UP's Deoria has submitted its report to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, but it is not clear yet whether sexual assault has been confirmed. It is also not clear what more action Yogi Adityanath's government will take in this case.
In the eastern UP district, a couple whose 15-year-old daughter was recovered from the shelter home on Sunday night, say it has been a desperate wait to have her back for about 20 days now. The couple also allege police complicity with the accused - Girija Tripathi - who ran the shelter - ensured their daughter was sent to the shelter in the first place. The couple's daughter went missing on July 18 from their village home - she allegedly eloped with a man from their village - the son of the local Pradhan. The girl's father says he managed to file a police complaint or FIR with the local police the next day. The girl was recovered by the police on July 25, but her father says they did not contact the parents at all - instead sending the girl for a medical examination and then producing her before a magistrate who ordered she be sent to the shelter home.
At the local police station, officers are unable to explain why they did not inform the parents and ask them to appeal for custody in front of the magistrate. "I finally managed to meet her in court. She told me she and the other girls were only given food once in two days and the food was not even fit for animals. She also told me they were made to work very hard and sweep the floor. I don't believe the gift anymore. She must have had a lot of clout. If not then how come her licence was on hold and yet girls were going there?" says the father, in tears.
It is a question for which there didn't seem to be any clear answers. The license of the NGO was put on hold by the UP government last year, after a statewide Central Bureau of India or CBI probe found financial irregularities. About 10 days ago, the local police and administration got into a scuffle with the accused Girija Tripathi and her husband - who ran the shelter - when they went to inspect it. An FIR was filed then too.
Deoria's police chief refused to be interviewed for the story, but told us the cops had no option. The police say there is no other shelter home in Deoria for girls and the closest shelter homes are in other districts and it's not physically possible for them to be sending them away and then again bringing them back to be produced before juvenile justice boards. The police also says they had no idea that sexual abuse allegations were part of what was going on there.
Another unanswered question - where are the 18 missing girls that were part of the list recovered from the shelter home, two days after the police raid? Police sources say the list of 42 girls was a floating list and that girls come and leave from shelter homes like these. Police sources say the list of 42 girls was last updated on July 31 and the police are looking to account for each of the 18 girls - some of them could have simply gone home.
The police is also looking at whether the NGO had inflated numbers by putting up fictitious names on the list to get more private funding.
The UP government is now studying a probe report submitted to them on Tuesday. "There is a strong possibility of sexual abuse and also criminal connivance at the local level," said a UP minister.