Girl's spine damaged during ashram rector's assault for stealing sweets
Orphanage management kept the incident under wraps for more than year; Child Welfare Committee, which discovered the matter in January, likely to file an FIR today
A 14-year-old girl was ruthlessly beaten up last year at a Lonavla ashram by a lady rector, referred to as ‘mother’ by the inhabitants, for stealing some sweets. As a result of this, the teenager developed a mild compression in her L4 vertebra.
Though the ashram management suppressed the entire episode, Child Welfare Committee (CWC) members unearthed the truth during a surprise visit to the Aantarbharati Balagram Anathashram in January this year. However, no complaint has been registered against Anita Shetye, who abused the girl, or the institution authorities so far.
“We could not register a case earlier, as many of our functionaries were absent,” said Sandhya Meshram, who was a part of the two-member CWC team that went to the ashram, adding that an FIR will be lodged today. On the other hand, superintendent of the ashram Sandip Patil said that he had done his duty by informing trustees of the institution and it is now their duty to investigate the matter and take action if necessary. Patil confirmed that Shetye is still the rector and her responsibilities have not changed.
“I am surprised by the casual approach of CWC members who had visited the ashram, and it is shocking to know that no complaint has been registered even now,” said Anjali Pawar, director of child rights organisation Sakhee, adding that she came to know about this incident on March 1, and has approached National Commission for Protection of Child Rights for intervention.
According to CWC members, this incident occurred on January 15, 2012, but the ashram management did not deem it fit to inform them. The victim, who was then studying in class IX, was thrashed by Shetye after the teen allegedly pinched some Puran (mixture of gram dal and jaggery) kept in the kitchen.
The rector reportedly repeatedly kicked and punched the girl, leaving her incapable of moving her legs. The management then admitted her to Soman hospital. The physicians who treated her, including Dr Milind Mundarki, diagnosed that the girl had developed a mild compression in her L4 vertebra.
CWC members launched an inquiry into this, after coming across a register, which had mentioned the girl’s brief hospitalisation owing to spinal injury.
Fighting the good fight
While the Child Welfare Committee has not covered itself in glory in the present case, MiD DAY had reported on March 15 (CWC saves newborn from getting uprooted) about how the group and an infant's paternal grandparents came together to save the child from having to spend the rest of his life with strangers.