Hyderabad: A 14-year old girl, Sarah (name changed), underwent severe physical and sexual abuse at Maruthi Orphanage in Miyapur. The abuse continued and after months of suffering, she succumbed to ailments in the wee hours of Wednesday. She breathed her last at 2.30 am at Nilofuer Hospital in Ladkikapul.

Sarah was admitted to the shelter home in 2015, after both her parents died. It was revealed in an FIR registered on July 31, 2020, that she was raped repeatedly by the accused, Venugopal, a donor at the orphanage. The incidents took place after the donor allegedly paid money to the warden and caretaker of the home to let him share a private room with the girl.

A timeline of events

Sarah was in the shelter home from 2015 to February, 2020. She was sent away to her uncle Anil Kumar's place in February due to increasing Covid-19 cases. Senior officials in the police department said that they were informed of Sarah being unusually quiet in the four months that she was present at her uncle’s house. Later, she was shifted to her cousin, Preeti's place, where the latter observed that the 14-year-old faced trouble walking.

On July 31, Preeti approached the Bowenpally police claiming that the child was sexually assaulted at the shelter home. A case was registered by the police under Section 376(3) -punishment for rape of woman under 16 years of age, Section 342- punishment for wrongful confinement, Section 323-punishment for voluntarily causing hurt, and Protection Of Child from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, including others.

The investigation was conducted by Ameenpur police station (where the case was transferred), Women Safety Wing and the Child Welfare Committee of the Telangana government.

Sarah disclosed that the donor used to sexually violate her after making her drink juice, which was laced with enough sedatives to make her unconscious. Three associates of the shelter home, owner Venugopal, warden Vijaya, and caretaker Jaydeep, were arrested by the police on August 7, after Sarah confessed that she had seen the donor giving them money.

Post the arrest

Last week, Sarah was sent to a government shelter home in Nimboliadda by her relatives. The staff at the shelter home admitted her to Niloufer Children Hospital as part of a routine checkup, officials of the Child Welfare Committee informed NewsMeter.

However, on August 8, the child collapsed and was shifted to the ICU. "She was put on a ventilator, but it was quite visible that her brain was not responding," said Divya Devarajan, Commissioner, Women and Child Welfare, Government of Telangana.

Preeti, who visited Sarah at Nilofuer on August 10, said that she could see the child getting closer to death. "Sarah is only able to breathe because of the ventilator, and has become completely irresponsive of any human interaction," Preeti said, speaking to this correspondent. In the meanwhile, members of the Child Welfare Committee were around her to ensure she got complete treatment.

Expressing grief, Divya Devarajan added, "I wish she was with us to see the justice we are ensuring for her. I wish she could guide us through this."

The WDCW chief further added that Sarah's body has been sent for post-mortem and the Director of Medical Education has been instructed to send in their forensics team. "Sarah underwent digestion issues in the last week and this was one of the reasons we had to admit her to Nilofuer. However, only toxicology and postmortem reports will reveal the truth," Ms Divya said.

Omitted details

Officials at the Women Safety Wing and Bharosa Centre informed NewsMeter that details of the four months that Sarah spent at her uncle's home were omitted out of the FIR registered on July 31.

Sarah, in her confession, alleged that she was beaten up by her uncle Anil and Appu Vijaya. The police were able to confirm this with fresh bruises present on the girl's arms. The relatives, however, deny the same.

A case has been registered against them under Sections 324 IPC, Sec 75 of Juvenile Justice Act 2015 and Sec 9(h)(l)(n) of POCSO Act, 2012.

Priyali Dhingra

Priyali Dhingra is a post graduate in Communication Studies from Hyderabad Central University. She has previously worked as a photojournalist, editorial, and graphic design intern in The Indian Express, Newslaundry, and NDTV. Reigning from Delhi, she has an avid interest in photojournalism, and all things visual. She has also represented India as a delegate in the JENESYS 2019 Student Exchange Program with the Government of Japan. Having pursued her graduation in history from Delhi University, she was also a part of her college's theatre society. Her primary interests include: photography, poetry & politics.

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