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Bihar report details abuse, neglect in care homes across Indian state

New Delhi, India (CNN)Disadvantaged children and adults living in care homes in the Indian state of Bihar were subjected to sustained sexual, mental and physical abuse, according to a newly released report that has caused national outcry and demands for reform.

The report was submitted to the Bihar government in April but made public Thursday after an order by the Supreme Court which weighed in on the case after a public outcry over alleged incompetence by the state authority. 
The report says some of the worst claims emerged from a girl’s home in Muzaffarpur, a city just 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Bihar’s capital, Patna, where children said they were subjected to sexual violence by male staff on a regular basis. “Male staff reportedly entered their rooms at odd hours and hit them on their privates,” the report said.
    “The girls had no access to any sort of open space and were literally locked up in their wards except for when they went to the dining hall to take their meals. Vocational trainings and recreation were unheard of,” reads the report.  
    Allegations from other homes detailed severe cases of neglect where children were locked in their rooms, beaten with pipes and forced to do personal things for staff members like cooking, cleaning and laundry.     
    The scale of the alleged abuse has provoked fury in the state and questions as to why it took so long for the government and police to act after the report was passed to officials.
    The report was submitted to the Bihar government by TISS in April, 2018, but no action was taken by the state officials for one month – a lapse that led to the suspensions of 14 state welfare department employees for failing to act on the report.
    When police finally raided the Muzaffarpur girl’s home in late May they found 44 girls, 34 of whom later alleged they’d been sexually abused in a complaint filed to the Bihar police. 
    In June, police arrested 10 people for offenses that range from criminal intimidation to  sexual assault, including Brajesh Thakur, the director of the NGO which ran the home, Muzaffarpur Senior Superintendent of Police Harpreet Kaur told CNN. Speaking to reporters on August 8 on his way to the local court, Brajesh denied the allegations and insisted that he is being framed for political reasons. Brajesh’s lawyers did not respond to CNN’s calls and messages requesting a comment.
    The shelter was shut down and the NGO blacklisted. An eleventh person is facing charges but has yet to be detained.
    During the police investigation, one of the 44 rescued girls alleged that another girl had been murdered at the home. The claim triggered a search of the property which attracted local attention and later calls for the entire contents of the report to be revealed. 
    It later emerged that the girl who was thought to have been killed had married and was living nearby. 
    In a country where sexual abuse is widespread and trust in law enforcement is minimal, demands for a federal investigation grew. 
    In late July, opposition parties disrupted proceedings in Parliament by protesting and shouting so loudly that the speaker couldn’t be heard over the din and had to repeatedly adjourn. As condemnation and calls for action grew, the government ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take over the inquiry. An official complaint was filed by the CBI and their investigation is currently ongoing.
    The CBI is refusing to comment on the case and has insisted that official charges are very far off from being filed. 
    On August 4 opposition parties led by national and state political leaders arranged a candlelight march in New Delhi to protest against the lackluster response of the Bihar state government. Leaders took to the podium one by one to condemn the repeated incidents of assaults on women in the country.
    “We are standing with the people of the country, we are standing with the women of the country, we are standing with those girls and their families and we will not step back by even one inch,” said Rahul Gandhi, president of the opposition Congress party. 
    As pressure on the state government grew, Bihar’s social welfare minister, Manju Verma, submitted her resignation on August 8. She claimed that she was unfairly targeted by the opposition party and the media.  “The leaders of opposition targeted me. That’s ok. They kept saying that the minister should resign,” she said. 
    As part of its investigations, the CBI raided 12 locations including Verma’s homes on Friday.
    The CBI says this is part of their ongoing investigation.  Verma is not an accused in the case.  
    The State High Court also began proceedings to oversee the CBI investigation on the request of the state government. 
    Nitish Kumar, the Bihar chief minister, said the government was “ashamed” at what had occurred at the state care homes.
    “The people who have done wrong, who has committed sin, that person will not be spared from any side. It does not matter who that person is. Along with this, we should work to improve the conditions,” he said.  

    Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/17/asia/bihar-india-abuse-report-intl/index.html

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