Friday, December 01, 2006

Ghaziabad Swami charged with rape

Ghaziabad Swami charged with rape: "After NDTV reported sexual abuse of children by a Swami in Ghaziabad near Delhi – he is arrested and charged with rape and other offenses. During the investigation, NDTV correspondent Anchal Vohra spent 10 days undercover at the Balanath ashram.

On Friday, Baba Balnath - charged with outraging the modesty of women, rape and criminal intimidation, has been ordered to appear in court. The National Commission for Women and Uttar Pradesh government have decided to move the children – all girls – out of the Swami's ashram to shelters in Uttar Pradesh.

The younger children will to taken to Agra and the older girls to Meerut. The NGOs 'Stop' and Shakti Vahini will oversee their transportation and care.

The girls staying at the ashram, many of them orphans, claim they have been sexually abused by the in-house swami. Among the swami's alleged victims are young, mentally challenged orphans.

The Chief Justice of India has asked the National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Women and the district magistrate to submit reports on the case. The chairperson of the National Commission for Women Girija Vyas has also reached the ashram in Ghaziabad.

Swami Balanath, who set up his ashram in 1975, is the man who one child after another describes as a monster. In the year 2000, his assets were valued at almost Rs 15 lakh. Although the swami denies any government funding, records with NDTV show donations worth over Rs 1 lakh from the UP government.

Nearly 65 girls, most of whom are still not in their teens, live here. The swami says his ashram is basically an orphanage, but he discusses the children here with chilling contempt. Most of the girls NDTV spoke to cannot remember how they got here, but they are desperate to leave.

The more daring have even tried to escape. They complained to the police about the swami but instead of helping them, the police forced them back into their hell. "We jumped off the wall at around 1 am, but were caught by the police an hour later and sent back to the ashram," said Meena, an inmate.

The ashram contains several dormitories. In a ward here, mentally challenged orphans are kept locked. NDTV found Neela, a young girl, who was badly bruised and in tattered clothes. Around her, the stench was unbearable. The special needs children at the ashram have never met a doctor or a therapist. But what they suffer on a regular basis is far worse.

The swami confirms that his ashram is officially registered as an orphanage in Uttar Pradesh. He claims that government officials regularly visit his ashram to ensure the children here are well looked-after. An 11-member control board appointed by the government has to explain why the ashram and the swami have never been examined for alleged child abuse.

NDTV repeatedly approached the Ministry for Women and Child Development. Yet despite constant attempts, Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhary and her staff refused to intervene. They were shown recorded footage of girls claiming sexual abuse. But after two weeks of no response, NDTV approached the National Commission For Women (NCW).

On Thursday, the NCW, NGOs STOP and Shakti Vahini along with the NDTV team and CISF raided the ashram and found what should have been a sanctuary was in fact a prison. In fact, most of the children were behind a locked door.

With the keys kept in an office several hundred meters away, escape would be difficult in case of an emergency. Inside, there were more horrors: children left to fend for themselves.

"This is a human issue and not a political one. I urge the government to take strong action against the culprits, otherwise it would be proved that there is no law and order in the state," said Rashid Alvi, Congress MP.

This has happened in a state in which just two weeks ago, the entire administration had come out to try and rescue three-year-old Ananth Gupta who had been kidnapped from outside his home in Noida. One can only hope that the wheels of justice will move a little faster for these 47 children."

1 comment:

Camuesque said...

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