Madhubani/Kolkata: The plot is thickening and things are definitely getting murkier in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur shelter home case as one of the 14 survivors of the Muzaffarpur Balika Grah shifted to Madhubani Balika Grah went missing on August 1, 2018.
With the girl, who went missing from the shelter home being the prime witness of the Muzaffarpur Shelter Home case, the focus has now shifted to Madhubani’s shelter home, which is run by Pragya Bharti.
Bharti had even called a press conference to clear the air about the missing girl case and the allegations being made about her shelter home. During the press meet, she alleged that the government despite her reservations sent in the girls from Muzaffarpur shelter home. She said, “We are a small unit with only 10 beds, so I had my reservations. But we were forced to keep the girl. Despite having adequate security, there could have been lapses which led to the girl missing. We are fully cooperating and have even handed over the CCTV footages to the officials.”
Girls sent to Madhubani, despite civil society raising alarm on June 3
In an interesting turn of events, the local residents of Madhubani had raised an alarm against the shelter home, much ahead of Tata Institute of Social Sciences blew the lid off Brajesh Thakur’s Balika Grah in Muzaffarpur.
In a video shared by a Muzaffarpur-based journalist Abhijeet Kumar, local residents are seen raising an alarm about the shelter home in front of the local police. Speaking to eNewsroom, Kumar said, “I had done this story on June 3 for our channel, highlighting the issues raised by the local residents. A committee was set up by the District Magistrate (DM) to take care of the issue, but there has been not much progress. Back then the NGO didn’t even have a CCTV camera.”
“We can hear the girls scream at night. Cars often are seen entering the shelter premise late at night. We are sure something is definitely wrong with this shelter home,” said a local resident on condition of anonymity.
When eNewsroom approached Shirshar Kapil Ashok, DM, Madhubani, he said, “Yes, there had been a protest on June 3, where people had raised their concern with regards to the Balika Grah in Madhubani, following which we had made a committee to look into the issue.”
On being asked, why the girls were brought here when the Grah was already under the scanner. He said, “I am in no position to answer this, the Welfare department should be asked the same.”
Madhubani shelter home video, June 3, 2018. Courtesy Abhijeet Kumar
Not the first to have gone missing
However, many in Madhubani allege that this is not the first time that girl has gone missing. “This shelter home, which has been set up in a residential area, became functional only in April 2017 and in June it registered its first death case. Two months later another girl died in this home and surprisingly, the authorities didn’t opt for a post-mortem to get done. In this one year, the shelter home has had at least eight cases where girls have gone missing from the shelter,” said social activist Mukesh Pajiyar. He even alleged that the political clout of those running the shelter home is such that he had been roughened when he had tried to campaign against the shelter home, following which he had formally lodged a complaint against his assailants.
Is political clout being used to protect those involved?
“These people are well connected. They have a strong political connect. Pragya Bharti is the wife of Uday Jha, who is an associate of Sanjay Jha of JDU. All that we are demanding is the arrest of Pragya Bharti and her associate Aliya Khurshid. Most won’t talk about it. Media is also silent, who will take on these people? They have a strong political backing. You see, no one wants to be killed,” said Ajay (name changed on request), another resident of Madhubani.
Locals, however, even contend the claim of the Grah officials sharing the CCTV footages with the police. However, when eNewsroom, posed the same question before the DM, he said, “I can’t comment much on this issue as the investigation is on. But yes, a girl called Kanchan Kumari, who is speech impaired has gone missing from Madhubani Balika Grah. However, we can’t for sure say that she was the prime witness for the Muzaffarpur case. Also, I am yet to get the CCTV footages.”
On being pointed out if he meant footages post-June 3, as many have alleged that there were no cameras installed in the Grah prior to that he said, “We can’t say much on this.”
Is Madhubani the Key to Muzaffarpur case?
According to sources in Madhubani, Brajesh Thakur’s close aide Madhu Kumari, who has been absconding since the case got highlighted, is one of the members of the 11 member committee of the Parihar Seva Sansthan, which runs the Madhubani Balika Grah.
In such situation, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has to find an answer as why in first place, we’re the girls shifted to Madhubani?
Our source in Madhubani, said, “See the connection and understand for yourself, as to why the girls have been brought to Madhubani. We are apprehending that the (prime witness) girl has been killed.” On being asked if we could take his name, he screamed, “Madam, you want me to get killed, please don’t use my name. Can’t you see big politicians are involved? All these girls would have gone missing if the general elections had not been this close. I hope you are getting what I want to say. Madhubani shelter home many have a lot of answers related to the Muzaffarpur case.”
Meanwhile, the Bihar government under pressure has suspended six officials from State Welfare Department Muzaffarpur, Munger, Madhubani, Araria, Bhagalpur and Bhojpur.