Written byGogona Saikia
Twenty-four women were recently rescued from a shelter home in Deoria, UP, where they were suffering long-time abuse.
For this, they have their 10-year-old friend to thank, who bravely managed to escape and went straight to a police station to get her peers out.
The minor later told police horror stories: girls were regularly taken away in cars. "When they returned, they used to cry."
Recalling her tale, the 10-year-old inmate, a native of Bihar's Betia, said that around 10 pm on August 5, Girija Tripathi, who ran the Vidhvansani Mahila and Balika Sanrakshan Griha, asked her to mop the floor.
In the meantime, Girija received a call and got engrossed in the conversation.
The little girl saw her chance and fled. "I went straight to a police station."
After reaching the station at 10:30 pm, she narrated her ordeal to the cops. Half an hour later, a team led by SP Rohan P Kanay was at the shelter.
Raids were conducted and 24 women rescued. "Eighteen of 42 women enrolled were missing," he said.
Girija, her husband Mohan Tripathi and their daughter were arrested, along with two others.
The inmates have now alleged torturous sufferings. "Many times, cars came and took away the girls," the 10-year-old said.
Another said, "Four people came and took a five-year-old boy in December and eight-year-old twin sisters in March. We were told they are going abroad."
An inmate's purported father said he wasn't allowed to meet her. "It seemed they were afraid of the girls spilling the beans."
Locals remained unsuspecting all this while as police dropped off girls at the home regularly, they said.
"I've never seen any of the girls outside unattended," said a resident.
But they noticed that the wealth of the "secretive" Tripathis grew manifold in eight years, after she started an NGO and opened the shelter.
"Swanky cars" would be stationed outside the home regularly, some said.
Incidentally, allegations about the home had surfaced earlier. State women and child welfare minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi said 20 letters had been sent to the district administration and social welfare department urging action, but to no avail.
The child welfare committee and the home management ignored directions too.
In July, Joshi's ministry lodged an FIR. Still, no action was taken against Tripathi, she said.
Girija has denied the allegations. "Police should clarify why they handed over 930 women if we were running illegally," she demanded.
She claimed she had been arrested as she was demanding pending dues from the administration.
The home's license cancelled was cancelled in June'17, but Girija claimed she had got it stayed.
However, Joshi said these claims were false. "We're checking the facts."
The government has now suspended the district magistrate and initiated a two-member inquiry. "This is a subject of investigation and we are looking into each aspect. A government-level probe is also underway," said ADM Finance Sita Ram Gupta.
Love India news?
Subscribe to stay updated.