14-year-old at Telangana orphanage allegedly sexually assaulted for a year, 3 held

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Three people were arrested after a chilling case of sexual assault on a 14-year-old residing at an orphanage came to light in Telangana. The girl, living at Maruti Orphanage at Medchal district, was allegedly made to drink soft drinks laced with sedatives and raped, and this continued for over one year.

Based on the survivor's statement, the Ameenpur police, under Sangareddy district, on Friday arrested 51-year-old Naredla Venugopal Reddy, a donor to the orphanage and an employee with Reddy Labs. The police also arrested the owner of Maruthi Orphanage, Chielukuri Vijaya, who is also the hostel’s warden, and her brother Surapaneni Jayadeep.

The girl has undergone a medical test at Nilopher hospital and has been shifted to a children's home in Hyderabad. Officials with the Women and Child Welfare Department have rescued 50 other girls who were residing at the registered Child Care Institute (CCI). Maruti orphanage is one of the 130 CCIs operational in Medchal district.

The girl was enrolled into the orphanage in 2015 by her uncle and the abuse allegedly began in 2019, when the hostel warden Vijaya, instructed the girl to go to a room in the fifth floor of the orphanage with Venugopal, who has given donations to the orphanage.

According to the statement given by the survivor to the police, Venugopal allegedly gave the girl a juice laced with sedatives and raped her. The survivor informed the hostel warden of the sexual assault but was threatened not to reveal the incident to anyone. The abuse continued several times over the year well into 2020.

The survivor told the police that she had seen Venugopal give money to the brother-sister duo several times. The survivor also said in her statement that many other girls there have alleged that there has been a similar sexual assault on another girl at the orphanage. The Sangareddy police were have refused comment on the case.

Police have registered cases against the accused under Section 376(3) for rape, Section 342 for wrongful confinement, Section 323 for voluntarily causing hurt, Section 328 for causing hurt by means of poison and Section 506 for criminal intimidation, under Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as under sections of the POCSO Act 2012.

Speaking to TNM, an official with the Women and Child Welfare Department said that officials with the Child Welfare Committee visited the orphanage on August 1. “None of the girls could open up; they are terrified. The children were shifted to other CCIs on August 3.

The incident came to light when the girl child went to reside at her uncle's house at the start of lockdown. She was refused admission back to the orphanage as the warden allegedly insisted on getting COVID-19 tests done before letting her in. However, that was not the end of her ordeal, as the minor was also allegedly physically assaulted by her uncle and was later shifted to her aunt's residence under the Bowenpally police limits.

“She was limping due to her injuries and her aunt kept pressing her for details and realised she was physically assaulted by her uncle and also sexually assaulted at the orphanage. It was her aunt who took her to the police station,” said the WCWD official, who added that a separate police case has been filed at the Jeedimetla police station by the department against the minor girl's uncle for assaulting the child.

The official stated that there are 130 CCIs in the district and it is difficult for the department to keep track of all the children at these orphanages. “130 orphanages for one district alone is an unusually high number; it's almost like a business here. It takes four months to make visits to all these CCIs, which is not enough. There is no clear policy on donors and their visits either. The department officials need time to spend with the children so that they open up and tell us about such instances,” said the officer.