July 30, 2011

Mumbai Mirror

Girls, boys raped daily, alcohol forced down their throats

Hope for the 13 boys and five girls, as new charge sheet in the Kavdas orphanage rape and abuse case gives true picture of the torture the victims went through

A fresh charge sheet has raised hopes of justice for the 18 children who suffered rape, starvation, regular thrashing and sexual assault at an orphanage in Kavdas.

The children (13 boys and five girls) were rescued from the horror house on August 22, last year.

After being let down by the Child Welfare Committee, State government and the police, the children are inching towards justice.

A special team headed by Superintendent of Police Rashmi Karandikar has submitted an exhaustive charge sheet, narrating how the horrors extended from pitiable living conditions, almost no food, physical abuse, going right up to violent rape of the girls, and sodomy of the boys. Alcohol was often forced down their throats while their tormentors abused them.

Daily chores

The charge sheet lists how the mentally-challenged children, aged between seven and 13 years, were made to wake up at the crack of dawn, and slog through the day. Their chores included fetching water from a river located a km from the orphanage, cleaning the premises, and cutting grass to feed the cattle owned by the orphanage founder. Hesitation, delay or mistakes in carrying out the chores resulted in relentless beatings, the charge sheet said.

Once the children were done with the morning chores, which took them at least three hours, they given a dry chapatti each, which was basically leftover food from the previous night, with some watery dal.

The victims stated in fresh statements to Karandikar’s team that they were never given tooth brushes, soap or hair oil. Bath was a luxury granted once in 15 days, and that too at the river.

At times, the five girls were made to wash clothes of all inmates. On paper, the orphanage had toilets, but none was functional. The children were forced to defecate in the open, the charge sheet said.

Post lunch, if one could call a dry chapatti and dal fare a lunch, the children were sent back to work, when they should have been studying in an in-house school. The orphanage had recruited teachers, and had shown classrooms on the premises while applying for licence to run the shelter home.

However, the teachers were just task masters who made the children slog. In their statement, the children said two ‘teachers’ - Sonal Shirke and Harshada Nichite (both have been arrested) used to beat them with iron rods if they did not complete the chores.

The duo were often joined by Shailaja Tarmale alias Sakshi Gole (also arrested), president of the orphanage, who ruthlessly beat up the kids. Medical examination of the children revealed that they were subjected to frequent thrashing by rods and sticks.

It is further alleged that the ailing children were taken to a government medical centre in Shahpur only when their condition turned critical. At the shelter home, the ailing kids were locked in a dark and dingy room, where they were forced to eat, sleep and even defecate.

The severely ill kids were not able to work, and got very little food. Their condition deteriorated over a period, and of the 24 kids shifted to the orphanage in December 2009, five died between May and July 2010.

On August 22, Mumbai Mirror reporters visited the orphanage, and found five severely-ill children locked in a room. Let alone walk, they were barely able to stand. All of them were severely malnourished, and lunged for the biscuit packets that the Mirror team had taken for them.

Sexual abuse

The children revealed that the worst was reserved for the evening. Immediately after sunset, they were served dinner, which included not more than two chapattis each and watery dal.

The children said they were never served eggs, fresh vegetables or meat, which the institution was supposed to provide, according to the terms and conditions set by the State for the licence.

Milk and other dairy products were unheard of at the orphanage.
Post dinner, the boys and girls were packed in different rooms, which had no beds, sheets, mattresses or even pillows. They told the police about the horrors night after night, when someone would walk into their rooms and rape them.

The five girls in their statements have stated that orphanage founder Pundalik Gole walked in almost every night in an inebriated state. He would force bottles of country liquor down the girls’ throats, and raped them.

Those who protested were brutally thrashed, and scalded with cigarettes. Medical examination revealed burn wounds from cigarettes on all girls, mostly around their private parts. Gole has been arrested.

The girls mentioned that men working in the orphanage would also walk into their rooms, and raped them. They identified their tormentors Sikander Pinjari, Sayyed Nawab, Jitendra Chavan, Nana Baghul and another man they knew as Chhota Chavan. The men subjected the five girls to unnatural
There were times when a girl was raped, and minutes later, forced to have unnatural with another man. Their medical examination revealed of the five girls, four were repeatedly raped, while a seven-year-old was sexually abused on several occasions.

The men regularly barged into the boys’ rooms as well. In their statement, the boys said that their tormentors would ask one of the elder boys to fetch a younger inmate.

The boys were often forced to drink alcohol, following which they were sexually abused. Often, one of them would be raped by different men. Medical reports said eight boys were sexually abused repeatedly.

The charges

Eight of the accused have been booked for gang rape, custodial rape, rape of the mentally-challenged, unnatural, molestation, assault, attempt to murder, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and abetment.

They have also been charged under Sections 23, 25 and 27 of the Juvenile Justice Act for torture and starvation. Office bearers of the orphanage have been charged for cheating under Section 420 of Indian Penal Code.

While applying for a licence to run the orphanage, a list of seven trustees was given to the state. Of the seven, three were related, which is against rules. As per the government norms, members of the same family cannot be on a trust that runs an institution.

While the investigating team has booked the trustees, there is no mention of the State officials who accepted the list, and granted a licence to the orphanage.

Loopholes in the previous charge sheet

The charge sheet filed by the Shahpur police in the Kavdas case on April 6 was so weak, the Bombay High Court asked the State to respond to the allegations of shoddy work by the police.

The HC rap came after Mirror reported on April 27 at least 10 crucial leads the Shahpur police ignored, or didn’t follow up, while filing the charge sheet.

Incisive leads such as an inmate’s death at the orphanage due to alleged beating by one of the trustees, allegations of rape and sexual assault, and deaths of five children in three months were not looked into. The police didn’t record the children’s statements either.

While the orphanage trustee Pundalik Gole, named main accused, was charged with rape, molestation, assault, intimidation and ill-treating the children, there was no mention of the six other trustees of Adivasi Magaswargiya Krishi Vikas Sanstha, which ran the shelter home, and its 22 employees.

Over the past seven months, the police interviewed several witnesses, interrogated the accused, spoke to the victims, and yet, they were only able to name Gole in the case.

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