The Deoria shelter home from where twenty-four girls were rescued after allegation of sexual exploitation of the inmates came to light.(PTI)
Rohit K Singh
Girija Tripathi who operated a shelter home for girls along with her husband and two daughters ran a sex racket using fear as a key to force minor girls into the flesh trade, say former inmates.
In her interactions with the police and counsellors, a 15-year-old former inmate of Deoria’s infamous shelter home for girls said she dreaded the weekends as she was forcibly sent to unknown men who sexually exploited her.
The traumatised former inmate of Maa Vindhyavasini Mahila Evam Balika Sanrakshan Griha accused Girija Tripathi of torturing her if she refused to follow her diktats.
The tearful teenager told the counsellors how she was sent to different persons in luxury cars which came every weekend to pick her up from the shelter home on the first floor of a crumbling building near the Deoria railway station.
Girls from the shelter home in Deoria.(HT Photo)
“The girl did not know the people whom she was sent to but said their vehicles and the protocol provided to them suggested they might be senior officials,” a police officer said.
“The girl alleged that ‘Badi Madam’ (Girija Tripathi) used to send her to different persons who sexually abused her. Some of them used to call her regularly on weekends,” she said.
Girija Tripathi and her husband Mohan Tripathi
The girl told the counsellors that the men used to keep her with them throughout the night and send her back to the shelter home early next morning.
She claimed that Girija used to take her out of the shelter home through rear door when someone came to pick her up.
“She said that initially when she tried to resist, she was physically assaulted. Finding no way out she started following Girija’s directions as she believed that she had a huge clout,” the police officer said. “She was treated well by Girija when she started following her directions.”
One of the counsellors said fear was evident in the girl’s eyes when she recounted the terrifying days she spent at the illegally run shelter home.
“She was shivering while talking to police personnel and counsellors even after being freed from the shelter home where she stayed for three months. She was afraid of speaking against ‘Badi Madam’ and ‘Chhoti Madam’ (Girija and her younger daughter and shelter home superintendent Kanchan Lata Tripathi).
“The rescued girls are still in shock. It will take a few more days to open up further about harassment,” the counsellor said.
FEAR OF ABUSE
The 10-year-old girl, who blew the lid off the alleged sex racket by escaping from the shelter home and informing the police about the trauma of the inmates, also feared meeting a similar fate.
The police raided the shelter home Sunday night and rescued 24 inmates, including 10 minors, and arrested Girija Tripathi, her husband Mohan Tripathi. Later, their daughters Kanchan Lata Tripathi and Kanak Lata Tripathi were also arrested.
The girl said the inmates were not allowed to move freely in the shelter home building and they were harassed and made to work round-the-clock.
The 10-year-old girl, who hailed from Bettiah in Bihar, told the counsellors that she reached the shelter home after being abandoned by her family near a railway track in Bihar.
“The girl boarded a train and reached Deoria where government railway police (GRP) personnel found her and sent her to the shelter home. She stayed there for around three months before fleeing on Sunday,” the counsellor said.
DIFFERENT ENTRY, EXIT ROUTES
There were four narrow staircases that allowed entry and exit from the shelter home. There were two staircases on the front of the building where several shops were located on the ground floor.
“The stairs at the back of the building, which opened in the adjoining lane, was used by the shelter home staff to take in or send out the girls,” alleged a local resident requesting anonymity.
He said he never saw shelter home girls coming out of the building from the front staircase. “People coming to the shelter home in cars also used the staircase at the back,” he added.
Besides police and district administration officials, other people also came to the shelter home in luxury cars during late evening hours. “One of the most frequent visitors to the shelter home was a person who came in a car that appeared to be a government official vehicle,” another resident said.
He claimed he did not know the person but added that he appeared to be a senior officer.
“We never talked to any of them as they were accompanied by their staff, including driver and police gunner. Some of the visitors were also accompanied by armed private security guards,” he added.
“People thought they must be visiting the shelter home for official purpose. We never imagined that any wrongdoing was being committed here,” he said.
Police have collected the footage of some CCTV cameras installed near the shelter home to identify frequent visitors to the shelter home.
Though Girija Tripathi has also been accused of facilitating illegal adoption of orphans, the police have not found any evidence of it.
Deoria district magistrate Amit Kishore said the allegation of an adoption racket was yet to be verified. “We are trying to coordinate with the officials of Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) to find out if they have any document related to adoption from Deoria shelter home,” he said.-HT