A 14-year-old girl from Sivasagar, Assam was allegedly raped by the Superintendent of the shelter home she was staying at. It was not a one-off incident and the girl claims that she had been facing sexual assault repeatedly. This happened in September and the accused was granted an anticipatory bail and as of now remains absconding.
The young girl, bogged down by the series of events and with an overwhelming feeling of helplessness, forced her to attempt suicide, not once, but twice.
On September 1, three girls escaped from the said shelter home, only to be found a few days later. The shelter home is privately owned and receives aid from the government and is registered under the Juvenile Justice Act. When they were inquired about why they fled from the shelter home, they revealed instances of abuse. Two the girls accused housemother Gita Kakati of physically and mentally torturing the inmates. The third girl said that the superintendent of the house, Parag Goswami had been inflicting mental, physical and sexual torture on her.
The girl accused Goswami of raping her continuously over a period of time. Her attempt of bringing this to the notice of police or similar authority were futile as both Goswami and Kakati did not allow anybody to talk to or meet her. One such attempt of reaching out for help failed as she was caught by Kakati and was then beaten up brutally. Kakati often physically assaulted the inmates, same was testified by the other two girls who fled.
After being discovered, the girls were moved to another shelter home by the District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) and Children Welfare Committee (CWC). The two girls were later sent back to their respective families, while the one who faced sexual assault at the hands of Goswami continues to stay at her new shelter home. A few days later, overcome by extreme grief and mental trauma, she attempted to take her life. In December again, she made the second attempt at taking her own life. She was rushed soon to a hospital and was fortunately saved. Presently, she is under counselling and authorities are in a process of transferring her to Guwahati.
It is also reported that she faced abuse even at the hands of her stepfather while she was staying with her family.
“Goswami using all tricks to escape clutches of law”
Miguel Das Queah, a child rights activists and founder of UTSAH, a child Rights organisation, received a letter from the girl on December 18. The girl wrote a letter to Queah, detailing tales of horrifying drugging and rape of the girl by Goswami. While speaking to The Logical Indian, Queah said, “Crimes against children in child care institutions are a major concern. Lobbying by politically powerful offenders and repeated police inaction often leads to injustice against abused children. In this case, I demand the arrest of Parag Goswami, Gita Kakati and all other accomplices. The said shelter home must be closed and all the children should be shifted to a safe place. Also, a social audit should be put in place to ensure the protection of children.”
Queah also said that while it was not the job of Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) to comment on whether the allegations of the minor were true or not, ASCPCR did exactly that. ASCPCR said that the allegations levied by the minor were untrue. “I was shocked to read snippets of the ASCPCRs Report. The Commission’s role is to ensure children’s rights, not to give opinions on whether an accused is guilty or not. That is the job of the Hon’ble Court. The Commission has forgotten that it is a quasi-judiciary and not the judiciary. Therefore, statements from the commission giving a clean chit to a POCSO accused holds no credibility and amounts to overstepping the justice system of the country,” he said.
Queah also wrote to the Chief Minister to accelerate the process. Goswami reportedly has influential contacts, which has helped him to evade the punishment. “Parag Goswami is using all sorts of tricks to escape the clutches of law. Since he has friends who are influential, he hopes them to shield him. This is the modus operandi of all abusers,” said Queah.
Social audit of shelter homes conducted
Over the condition of the minor, chairperson, CWC told The Logical Indian, “ The condition of the girl is better now. We have given her a little bit of counselling. We are going to transfer her to Jalukbari, Guwahati for further psychological counselling within two-three days.”
“The case was registered in September. He is on anticipatory bail right now and he cannot be arrested. In the meantime, I had conducted an inquiry through one of our senior officers, but in that nothing conclusive came up. Another inquiry conducted by ASCPCR and CWC, Sivasagar, all of these inquiries, the reports are not very clear. Secondly, coming to the policing part, Goswami right now is absconding,” said Pallav Gopal Jha, District Collector, Sivasagar. Jha also told The Logical Indian that the management of the said shelter house has been removed. Also, orders have been passed to refrain both Goswami and Kakati from entering the premises and interfering with the management. Right now, the management of this shelter house has been handed over to CWC and DCPO. “We are now waiting for the chargesheet to be filed.”
He further added that a social audit by the Social Welfare Office has been conducted in the shelter homes of Sivasagar. “We conduct an audit to know if the guidelines were being followed. We did not see flouting of any major guideline.”