One of the three whistleblowers in the alleged Apna Ghar sexual abuse case has been selected for the National Bravery Award, 2013.
The girl, 17, was among the over 100 inmates at the children’s shelter home in Rohtak who were allegedly exploited for six years before she managed to escape with two other children.
On May 9 this year, the girls told their story to a team of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), which then visited Apna Ghar and discovered shocking details of the alleged sexual abuse of children and women living at the home.
NCPCR officials said this is the first time in the over half-century-old history of the National Bravery Awards that an inmate of a shelter home has been selected for the honour. The Awards, instituted in 1957, are given every year to around 24 children for “meritorious acts of bravery against all odds”.
“It is indeed a big boost and an example for all girls and women of this country. The Apna Ghar inmate showed immense courage in escaping from the shelter home and raising her voice against the alleged gross physical and sexual abuse. Not many girls have this kind of strength and courage.
“I thank the Indian Council for Child Welfare for having recognised her courage and chosen her for this prestigious award,” NCPCR member Vinod Tikoo told The Indian Express.
The awardees, picked by ICCW and the Government of India, are honoured by the Prime Minister every year on the eve of Republic Day.
NCPCR recommended the names of all three Apna Ghar whistleblowers for the Award. “But two of the girls had already attained the age of 18 when they escaped, and so the youngest was chosen for the award,” Tikoo said.
The girl had entered Apna Ghar in 2005. In a statement given to the Child Welfare Committee, New Delhi, on May 10, 2012, she narrated a horrific tale of sexual and physical abuse of women and child inmates at the home.
She accused the home incharge, Jaswanti Devi, of using her as a domestic help for six years, and of denying her food for days whenever she refused to perform the menial tasks given to her. She alleged that Jaswanti’s son-in-law Jai Bhagwan frequently visited the home and abused inmates physically and sexually.
Home inmates were allegedly forced to perform and entertain guests at weddings, and those who protested were tied to windows, stripped naked and compelled to perform sexual acts on each other while Jaswanti Devi watched.
Jaswanti and a dozen other accused have been arrested.