The first episode of The Lost Child, a Suno India production supported by Firstpost, looks at the crime and abuse that was rampant at Balika Griha or shelter home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. It traces the story of how girls in the shelter home were abused for years (this was first reported in 2014, but only got attention in 2018); how no one said anything; how it finally came to light through a 110-page audit report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS); and discusses the many government officials implicated in this case.
Through the audit and the following investigation, it came to light that around 36 of the 44 girls living there had been sexually abused. More were sexually assaulted and faced violence, with investigators even finding blood splattered on the walls. This case, alarmingly, is not an exception; it’s the result of a failing childcare and protection system in the country.
The Balika Griha was located in the same compound as Pratah Kamal, a Hindi daily, run by the family of Brajesh Thakur. Thakur was a local leader with political connections going up to the Bihar Cabinet; he was the chief of the NGO in charge of the home, and later it was found, the main accused.
Child Welfare Committees (CWC), the district-level bodies in charge of ensuring appropriate implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act, failed to do their job. Following the TISS report and nation-wide media attention, an FIR was filed and the issue later escalated to the Central Bureau of Investigation. Members from the CWCs themselves — Dilip Verma, Vikas, and Rakesh Raushan — were allegedly involved in the assault and have been charge-sheeted.
All this could carry on because of one primary reason: No one said anything. In response to the crying that they consistently heard, they were told the girls were unstable. And in response to journalists’ questions, people living around simply wanted to forget all about it.
The next episode will continue tracing this investigation, hearing from Tarique Mohammed, who leads the TISS team through their audit.