CHENNAI: “Enna viturunga” (Please leave me) - this is the instant reaction of 6-year-old Priya (name changed) when even her own mother hugged to her. Priya is one of the two children who have allegedly faced abuse for months together at the hands of a 15-year-old boy in a government-run children day care.
According to the local residents, Ravi (name changed), son of a staff in the centre, was virtually running the day care centre, since his mother would leave soon after cooking food in the morning and the teacher in-charge hardly turns up. Ravi was only person who serves lunch and baby sits for the children. From what the children say, the boy seems to have exploited the complete absence of supervision.
Priya had told her mother that as soon as the lunch is served, Ravi would close the main door and the window of the single-room centre to make it dark. “As the centre does not have any compound or a separate area, he was apparently abusing the children as other kids watched,” said Priya’s aunty.
About 20 children, mostly children of daily-wage labourers, would be in the centre on any given day.
“Many days, she used to come back crying complaining of stomach pain, but I thought it was because of the food and did not suspect sexual abuse. Three months back, she had urinary infection,” said Priya’s mother.
On Friday, the child could no longer bear this, and opened up to her mother about her eight-month long ordeal. As the word spread, mother of another child also complained that her child had also suffered frequent stomach pain when she was earlier put in the centre.
But the girl’s parents said the police were very hesitant to register the case and initially filed a case of negligence of staff.
Finally, on Saturday, when the victim’s family along with their relatives, approached the police again and insisted on a case of sexual abuse, the police registered an FIR against the boy.
If the relatives expected reprieve at least after the case was filed, they were in for a surprise. A uniformed woman sub-inspector, in an ‘enquiry’, asked the child to narrate the incidents, on Saturday around 12.30 pm. The juvenile boy was also present in the room during the inquiry, while her parents were asked to leave the room.
“They asked us to leave the room, to question my daughter, who was already scared of police,” said Priya’s father.
Later, the sub-inspector along with two other police personnel took the victim to a nearby private hospital for a medical test. A report by a private hospital shows that there were injury marks and scars on her private parts.
“On Friday, when I filed a complaint with the police, they told me not to make an issue out of this, as it would affect my daughter’s life. But I did not want any of the other children facing similar problems. That drove me to lodge a complaint against the boy and his mother,” said Priya’s mother.
“She used to come back from school very depressed and complaint of stomach pain. I assumed it to be because of the climate and the food and did not pay much heed. It was two months back, my daughter told me that Ravi was abusing her. I Immediately stopped sending my daughter to the centre,” said another victim’s mother.
When contacted, an officer in the local police station said the sexual abuse complaint was lodged due to “personal motive”. However, the boy has been sent to the juvenile observation home.
Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), District Project Officer, G Surguna said that the officials were not aware about the boy’s presence in the centre. “We have suspended the boy’s mother and the teacher of the school,” she said.