Sex­ual abuse row en­gulfs two MP or­phan­ages

Speech and hear­ing im­paired in­mates ac­cuse or­phan­age head of ex­ploit­ing them

The New Indian Express - - INDIA - ANURAAG SINGH

AN­OTHER case of sex­ual and phys­i­cal abuse in­volv­ing speech and hear­ing im­paired chil­dren at two or­phan­ages in Mad­hya Pradesh’s Bhopal and Hoshangabad dis­tricts came to light on Fri­day evening.

The shock­ing case came to the fore a month af­ter Ash­wini Sharma, the 39-year-old head of a pri­vate hos­tel in Bhopal, was ar­rested for al­legedly rap­ing two young speech and im­paired stu­dents and mo­lest­ing two oth­ers at his hos­tel.

Over three dozen speech and hear­ing im­paired teenagers and young or­phan boys and girls, who have been re­sid­ing at two or­phan­ages, sub­mit­ted a com­plaint with the so­cial jus­tice depart­ment about their sus­tained phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse by MP Awasthi, the 70-yearold head of the or­phan­age.

Awasthi has been op­er­at­ing the or­phan­ages since 1991 with ap­proval from the so­cial jus­tice depart­ment. He has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions and pleaded in­no­cence. “All these al­le­ga­tions are base­less. I’m 70-year-old. How can I even think of sex­u­ally abus­ing any­one, when I’m ill my­self ?” he said.

The in­mates, who were ac­com­pa­nied by Congress state me­dia in-charge Shobha Oza, reached Bhopal’s TT Na­gar po­lice sta­tion af­ter they re­port­edly did not get proper at­ten­tion from the so­cial jus­tice depart­ment staff.

With the help of a sign lan­guage spe­cial­ist-so­cial ac­tivist, the in­mates nar­rated their or­deal at the twin or­phan­ages in Hoshangabad and Baira­garh (Bhopal) since 2010.

While two young girls who are now mar­ried al­leged that they were re­peat­edly raped by Awasthi at the two or­phan­ages since 2010, at least four teenaged and young boys al­leged that they had to re­peat­edly bear un­nat­u­ral sex­ual acts. Other boys have also al­leged that they were reg­u­larly as­saulted phys­i­cally by Awasthi and aides.

It was fur­ther al­leged that three-four boys had died due to the un­nat­u­ral sex­ual act with them or have been killed for not co­op­er­at­ing with Awasthi. Oza claimed the mat­ter was re­ported by the vic­tims in Hoshangabad, but no ac­tion was taken against Awasthi. “The or­phan­age be­ing run in Hoshangabad was shut down only last year fol­low­ing a probe by the dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Later, DIG-Bhopal Dhar­men­dra Choud­hary said the process was un­der­way at the po­lice sta­tion to record state­ments of the al­leged vic­tims. The case will be trans­ferred sub­se­quently for in­ves­ti­ga­tions, he added.

All these al­le­ga­tions (of physi­cial and sex­ual abuse) are base­less. I’m 70-year-old. How can I even think of sex­u­ally abus­ing any­one, when I’m ill my­self?

MP Awasthi, or­phan­age head

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