The three girls have accused two men of behaving indecently with them in a vehicle
Three minor girls of a government-aided orphanage have made a complaint that two persons tried to molest them on Friday night.
The three girls, aged between 12 and 13 and residents of The Bijapur Orphanage, have accused Goudappa and Somu — who were in the attire of Ayyappa devotees — of behaving indecently and trying to molest them inside a vehicle while they were going for dinner arranged by a government officer.
The complaint was made to the superintendent of the orphanage B.L. Desai and also to Deputy Director, Woman and Child Development, D.P. Vasantaprema.
Speaking to The Hindu, Ms. Vasantaprema confirmed that the girls had made a complaint against the two accused.
Curiously, the accused have reportedly been staying on the premises of the orphanage for close to four years, according V.S. Khade, secretary of the trust that has been running the orphanage since 1918.
The orphanage has a total strength of 28, and of them 15 are girls and 13 boys.
Mr. Khade said that the orphanage had permitted a private institution to hold bhajans and spiritual programmes so that “the children imbibed good values and become good citizens.”
The private institution, which holds programmes on Ayyappa swami, set up a spiritual centre on the premises of the orphanage over four years ago.
Mr. Khade said the objective of allowing the centre was only to enable the resident learn “good habits”.
Ms. Vasantaprema, citing the children, said the incident occurred when the group was going to Ramesh Mudhol’s house for dinner.
She said that Mr. Mudhol, an official in the Department Forests, had been offering food to poor and orphans for free for several years.
It was he who had started the spiritual centre at the orphanage, she said.
“The children were taken in a van to the official’s house around 8 p.m. The group consisted of both boys and girls, and they were accompanied by the two accused. Unfortunately, there was no official of the orphanage with the group,” she said.
“The girls told me that when the accused tried to touch them in an indecent manner, they screamed and moved away. They later brought the matter to the notice of the superintendent,” she said.
Ms. Vasantaprema expressed shock that no official of the orphanage was accompanying the children.
“It is a case of sheer negligence on the part of the orphanage officials,” she said.
To a question on the setting up of a religious or spiritual centre on the premises of an orphanage, Ms. Vasantaprema said that as per an amendment to the Juvenile Justice Act, an outsider could be permitted, with some strings attached, to hold programmes if they were in the interest of the residents.
Nataraj, a former Child Welfare Committee (CWC) chairman and former member of the Juvenile Justice Board, Chitradurga, told this correspondent that the Act did not permit holding religious programmes of any particular community, as that might hurt the sentiments of residents of other faiths.
Dr. Nataraj said that the Act did not allow the residents to be taken outside for dinner.
“ In fact, the law says that any food served by outsiders in the orphanage should to eaten first by the superintendent or the housemother before it is served to the residents, and that too after an hour of consumption,” he said.
Dr. Nataraj, however, pointed out that residents could be taken for excursion or picnic by the orphanage and that its officials should accompany them. Ms. Vasantaprema said a police complaint would be filed against the accused, a show-cause notice would be served on the superintendent of the orphanage, and strict vigilance would be maintained to prevent outsiders entering the orphanage.
CWC chairman, Bijapur, Vasudev Tolabandi said the matter had come to their notice. “We will write to the officials concerned to take necessary action against the erring persons,” he said.
Mr. Khade said he had asked Mr. Mudhol to close down the spiritual centre on the orphanage premises.
Describing the incident as “appalling”, Mr. Mudhol said he would sever all relations with the accused.
Two of the three victims told this correspondent that they did not wish to see the accused inside the orphanage anymore.
Superintendent of Police D.C. Rajappa said he had been apprised of the incident by Deputy Commissioner Shivayogi Kalasad, and that action as per law would be taken after receipt of the complaint.