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Hostel guardian accused of raping inmates

Vijay Singh in Mumbai | March 10, 2004 16:21 IST

Twice cursed. That is the fate of 105 girls in Kamla Nehru Girls Hostel in Titwala, 50km from Mumbai.

They are there because either they have lost both their parents, or the one alive cannot afford to raise them.

They are allowed to stay in the hostel till they complete their education up to Class X in a nearby government school.

Recently, a woman told police that the hostel's founder-director, 60-year-old Prabhakar Wagh, had molested and raped her daughter Damayanti, an inmate.

The 14-year-old girl studies in Class VIII. Her mother, Radha, makes ends meet by doing household chores in Vashi, New Bombay. The girl lost her father at an early age and the family's poor economic condition forced Radha to get her admitted to the hostel.

Radha came to know about the incident when she visited her daughter on March 5, 2004. After lodging the complaint, she withdrew Damayanti from the hostel.

Says Inspector D N Pandre, "The complainant said that Wagh had raped her daughter during the Ganpati festival, Navratri celebrations and the last time on February 29."

Damayanti was not the only one.

"Sir used to sit on the building terrace till late night," says Geeta, a 15-year-old student of Class X. "A lady employed to look after us used to send us to the terrace at night to give him water and food, which is when he used to molest us."

Geeta was admitted to the hostel when she was in Class V. Her father is dead and her mother makes a living doing household chores. "He always said: 'Maine tumko pala hai. Tum par mera hak hai (I have brought you up. I have every right over you).'"

Many other girls have the same complaint, but they keep quiet because they don't have any other options. Girls who have left the hostel warn the younger wards about Wagh.

Rajni, a 16-year-old student of Class X, was in the hostel for six years. Her family story is the same as that of the other two girls.

"Sir used to give us new [donated] clothes and ask us not to tell anybody about his misbehaviour," she says. "He used to call me to the terrace and molest me. I don't have any other accommodation, so I didn't dare to resist. He is so old. I felt ashamed when he used to molest me. I used to advise my juniors to be wary of him."

Sudha (8), listening to her senior, says, "If I happened to be around when sir was molesting some girl, he used to kick me and make me leave the spot with a warning not to tell anybody." Sudha lost her mother and her father is employed with a caterer.

Wagh founded the hostel in 1989. Sometime ago, the Lion's Club of Mulund ensured construction of a two-floor building for the hostel. He has been operating two institutions from the same building; the Kamla Nehru Girls Hostel and Seeta Mai Girls Hostel.

The former gets a government grant to accommodate 24 girls while the latter is dependant on donors. Some boys are put up in a nearby building with Wagh's family.

His wife, two sons and daughters-in-law handle the affairs of the hostels. His two daughters live elsewhere with their husbands.

After investigating and recording the statements of other inmates, the police arrested Wagh on Monday under Section 376 (C) of the IPC (intercourse by superintendent of jail, remand home, etc) and 354 (assault or criminal force on woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and took him into custody till March 10.

Incidentally, he had been arrested in 1996 on a molestation charge. At that time, he was a ticket checker in the Indian Railways. It led to a six-month suspension, but he got relief from the courts.

Samaj Kalyan Kendra officials are investigating the case. Based on their report, the government will decide whether to cancel the grant to the hostel.

Some girls have requested that they be shifted elsewhere. A lady official of Samaj Kalyan Kendra says, "I am not sure how these girls will survive. We don't have any alternative for them. They will find Prabhakar-like people everywhere."

(Girls' names have been changed)

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