Muzaffarpur: Bihar’s home of shame
As per government record, there were 44 girls in the Balika Griha in Muzaffarpur. 42 out of the 44 are under government protection. Medical reports confirmed rape of 34 girls
Muzaffarpur, just about 80 kms from the state capital Patna, is known for its luscious litchies. The north Bihar town was also known for the highest number of newspapers published from there. At one time the number of daily newspapers alone published from Muzaffarpur was said to be over 400. And the alleged king-pin of the Muzaffarpur home scandal, it is claimed, brings out three newspapers including the daily, “Pratah Kamal”.
Muzaffarpur is also known for the Navaruna case. A teenaged girl was abducted from her own bedroom and was never found thereafter. A CBI inquiry reached a dead end and the presumption is that she was either killed or smuggled out of the country for trafficking.
Muzaffarpur will now be also known for the home for scandals, which is best summed up by what the state’s Advocate General told the High Court. “As per government record, there were 44 girls in the Balika Griha in Muzaffarpur. 42 out of the 44 are under government protection. Medical reports confirmed rape of 34 girls. Two of the girls are missing. Police investigation is still going on but for now, they have been unable to find the missing girls’ location and if they are alive or not…,” the AG reported. The CBI has registered a case now but in view of the Navaruna case, nobody really expects the agency to unearth more dirt.
Ten of the eleven accused, seven of them women, have been arrested by the Muzaffarpur Police and the head of the NGO which ran the home, Brajesh Thakur, is now in judicial custody.
While the scandal has created ripples in the national media, it has not come as a surprise to Nivedita Shakeel. The journalist, poet and activist based in Patna recalls several horror stories from the recent past. She points to the rape of a mother and daughter in Gaya, the rape and filming of the crime in Nalanda and the rape and murder of a teenaged inmate of a hostel, Dika Kumari, in Vaishali and says that the growing incidence of sexual violence against women indicated the lowly depths to which the society had sunk.
Thakur, whose NGO is said to have been running three homes in Muzaffarpur alone, is said to have made his money through his newspapers and government advertisements, is acknowledged to be a person with powerful connections.
TISS Assistant Professor Tariq Ahmed, who led the social audit team which inspected 110 homes in the state, believes there has been an institutional failure. Complicity of people in the Government with the NGO and the failure of the checks and balances had allowed people to misuse grants and play with the lives of young inmates.
Thakur, whose NGO is said to have been running three homes in Muzaffarpur alone, is said to have made his money through his newspapers and government advertisements, is acknowledged to be a person with powerful connections. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar would visit his home for meals and Thakur’s would be a prominent face in CM’s electoral campaigns, allege activists.
Santosh Kumar Jha, whose PIL praying for a court-monitored investigation into all the homes in the state is pending before the high court, is convinced that a ‘syndicate’ of politicians, bureaucrats and the media have been involved in an international sex racket. How is it that officials, judges, the media and even members of the District Child Welfare Committee, who are expected to inspect the homes regularly, did not get a whiff of the scandal? Indeed, the chairperson of the Muzaffarpur Child Welfare Committee, Dilip Verma, is absconding since the scandal broke. It is widely believed that he has fled to Nepal, just three hours’ drive away from Muzaffarpur.
While the state government has come under a cloud, critics agree that it was a good decision to get a social audit done by TISS.