The probe team investigating the sexual exploitation of girls at a Muzaffarpur shelter home in Bihar have recovered medical equipment and sedatives from the home and found a secret staircase, giving credence to allegations that the girls were raped after being drugged.

A team comprising Muzaffarpur IG Sunil Kumar and DIG Anil Kumar carried out the inspection of the home on Saturday.

A forensic team also comprising two doctors, one of them a woman, accompanied the police officials.

Sources said the police team also found a secret staircase that connected the home with a newspaper office running in the two-storey building nearby.

“A forensic team will take samples of all medical equipment and medicines found inside the home. They will also make a list of recovered medicines,” said a senior police officer, wishing anonymity.

There are allegations that shelter home authorities in connivance with the promoters of the NGO running the home had carried abortions of girls who had gotten pregnant after being raped.

The recovery of a bed and a room filled with medical equipment has now forced the police to look into the allegations more seriously and carry out the investigations.

So far 11 persons have been arrested by the police, including Brajesh Thakur, who was the promoter of the NGO running the shelter home and also a newspaper at the two-storey building.

The state government has recommended a CBI probe into the case although the premier agency has not taken up the case formally.

Detection of the secret staircase connecting the shelter home with a newspaper office running at the ground floor of the two-storey building has surprised the police brass.

Sources said the staircase could have been used for easy access of those who allegedly visited the home at odd hours to sexually exploit the girls.

They said the forensic team have taken some bed sheets and clothes of the inmates to trace any sign of semen stains.

Medical examination of 34 out of 44 girls who were staying at the shelter home has confirmed rape. The inmates have narrated their ordeal to the judicial magistrate and women’s commission members on how they were brutally beaten up by shelter home staff, including women, several times for refusing to have forced sex with visitors.

Names of several bigwigs have come up in the case, with opposition RJD accusing the husband of social welfare minister, Manju Verma, of being a regular visitor at the home. The minister has refuted the charges, claiming her husband’s name was being dragged into the case just to defame her.

Meanwhile, in a press note issued from Delhi, Congress leaders, including state-in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil, said the BJP-JDU-ruled Bihar is in the grip of complete lawlessness as horrifying incidents have shaken the conscience of the people.

“A government and a CM who was known for empowering women and girl child through bicycles, prohibition and reservation, preside over a regime where girls in shelter homes are being sexually exploited by the state. All thanks to the Anti-Women mindset of BJP and its leadership,” the press note said.

Party leaders questioned the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Nitish Kumar.

“When will they speak a word on this gruesome incident? Why have they not even filed an FIR in the rest of the 14 home shelter and institutions mentioned under ‘grave concern, requiring immediate action’ of the TISS Report?”

The leaders demanded a Supreme Court-monitored CBI enquiry in the case “so that the culprits are truly brought to book”.

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