MP govt forms SIT to probe sexual abuse at differently-abled shelter

Representational image of sexual abuse Representational image

After a 19-year-old girl living in a shelter home for differently abled girls in Bhopal levelled allegations of sexual misconduct against its owner, the Madhya Pradesh Police has formed a special investigation team to look into the matter. Three more girls have also come forward with similar allegations against the owner, Ashwini Sharma.

The incident comes amid outrage over allegations of abuse at such shelter homes in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Sharma was running a shelter home for disabled girls, which was funded by the state Women and Child Welfare Department. He started the shelter home in 2016 and 21 girls were living there.

Sharma ran the shelter home by converting three rented duplex houses in Awadhpuri locality of Bhopal. Out of the 21 girls, four have so far come forward to say that they were sexually abused by Sharma.

Taking note of the incident, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan called a high-level meeting with the DGP and principal secretary of Women and Child Welfare Department to prevent such incidents from recurring in the future. Speaking to The WEEK, Chouhan said he had asked officials to inspect such shelter homes every month.

Chauhan instructed that the collector and SP of the districts personally inspect children's homes where girls were living.

There are 121 registered childcare institutions in Madhya Pradesh, out of which 29 shelter homes have been shortlisted for immediate inspection.

Meanwhile, Sharma was produced in a Bhopal court after a speech- and hearing-impaired girl alleged she was sexually abused. The victim wrote Sharma's name on a piece of paper before police during investigations. Sharma was sent to police remand as Superintendent of Police of Bhopal R.K. Lodha started investigations.

The incidents of sexual abuse of girls in shelter homes and childcare homes has become a major political issue in Madhya Pradesh. The matter was first raised by the state Congress's media department chairman Sobha Ojha. PCC president and senior Congress leader Kamal Nath also wrote a letter to Chouhan, demanding a CBI inquiry into the incident.