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All About the Muzaffarpur Shelter Home Case That Inspired Netflix's 'Bhakshak'

Bhumi Pednekar plays the role of an investigative journalist in 'Bhakshak'.

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(Trigger warning: Mentions, descriptions of sexual assault and physical abuse.)

Bhumi Pednekar's investigative crime drama, Bhakshak – now out on Netflix – is reportedly inspired by the 2018 Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case, in which former Bihar MLA Brajesh Thakur, among 11 others, was sentenced to life imprisonment for sexually assaulting several minor girls.

Bhakshak features Bhumi Pednekar as Vaishali Singh, a struggling local journalist who begins an investigation into harrowing cases of abuse taking place at a shelter home for young girls.

The film also features Sanjay Mishra as Bhaskar Sinha, who is Vaishali's aid, and Aditya Srivastava as Bansi Sahu, an influential man who runs the shelter home and is believed to be portraying the character of Brajesh Thakur.

Speaking about the film, Bhumi shared with The Quint:

"Bhakshak is such a sensitive film that deals with abuse of that strata of the society that's not empowered at all. It's a fictional film inspired by true events, and my conscience wouldn't have allowed me to let go of the script."
Bhumi Pednekar plays the role of an investigative journalist in 'Bhakshak'.

Bhumi Pednekar in a still from Bhakshak.

(Photo Courtesy: IMDb)

While the makers are yet to officially confirm its inspiration, the storyline of Bhakshak seems to bear resemblances to the real-life case in Muzaffarpur.

All About the Muzaffarpur Shelter Home Case That Inspired Netflix's 'Bhakshak'

  1. 1. A Brief Timeline of the Muzaffarpur Shelter Home Case

    In 2018, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, audited 110 shelter homes in Bihar, exposing a racket involving sexual abuse of several young girls, including minors.

    Bhumi Pednekar plays the role of an investigative journalist in 'Bhakshak'.
    Brajesh Thakur, main accused in the Muzaffarpur shelter home case.
    (Photo: PTI)
    The report flagged 17 shelters as "grave concern," including the Balika Grih in Muzaffarpur, which was run by local politician Brajesh Thakur's NGO Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti.

    The case came into limelight a month after the Bihar police acted on the TISS report and charged 11 people, including Brajesh Thakur, Dilip Kumar Verma, chairperson of the Muzaffarpur District Child Welfare Committee; Vikas Kumar, a member of the Child Welfare Committee; Ravi Roshan, a child protection officer; and Rosy Rani, assistant director of the child protection unit. According to a report by Newslaundry:

    • Many of those convicted were welfare officers who reportedly attended meetings to discuss the rehabilitation of victims after the case was spotlighted in the media.

    • In July 2018, the Patna High Court took suo motu cognizance of the case based on media reports, also receiving two PILs.

    • However, the investigation into the case was transferred to the CBI.

    • In August 2018, the Supreme Court viewed the case as a "state-sponsored incident" and inquired if the credentials of Thakur’s NGO had been checked.

    "If you are doling out funds to NGOs without verifying their credentials, it almost amounts to state involvement. It will appear that all their wrongdoings are state sponsored," Justices Deepak Gupta, KM Joseph, and Madan B Lokur had observed.
    • In September 2018, the CBI recorded statements of victims, some of whom became witnesses for the prosecution.

    • The CBI charged 20 people in the case, of whom nine were women.

    • In February 2019, the apex court transferred the trial to a Delhi court, which announced its verdict 11 months later.

    • On 20 January 2020, Sessions Judge Saurabh Kulshreshtha convicted 19 people, including Thakur, Verma, Kumar, Roshan, and Rani.

    According to a report by The Print, the women accused in the case were convicted of criminal conspiracy, Section 12 (sexual harassment) of the POCSO Act, abetment of crime, and provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act.

    Thakur, who was the prime accused in the case, was convicted on multiple grounds of rape, gangrape (Section 376(d), IPC), criminal conspiracy, aggravated sexual assault under Section 6 of the POCSO Act, and offences under the Juvenile Justice Act.

    Expand
  2. 2. The Role of TISS & Their 'Koshish Project'

    Bhumi Pednekar plays the role of an investigative journalist in 'Bhakshak'.

    The RJD, the Congress, and the Communist Party of India legislators stage a protest against the Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case, during the ongoing Monsoon Session, outside Bihar Assembly in Patna on 26 July 2018.

    (Photo Courtesy: X)

    In June 2017, a group of researchers led by TISS' Mohammed Tarique met senior official Atul Prasad, who was then Secretary of the Social Welfare Department in the Bihar government, seeking permission to survey the condition of some private shelter homes in the state.

    According to a report by The Print, Prasad suggested to TISS researchers that government shelters and short-stay homes should also be included in the survey in order to get a comprehensive picture of the situation.

    The mandate was to find instances of best practices and suggest strategies to enhance the living conditions of inmates in 110 shelter homes across Bihar.

    The TISS researchers found complaints of harassment and sexual abuse at 15 of these shelter homes. However, the report, which was published in April 2018 by a seven-member team of young psychologists of TISS' field-action project called the ‘Koshish Project', made startling revelations about "physical and sexual violations" of several young girls, particularly at the Muzaffarpur shelter home.

    In May 2018, the department filed an FIR at Muzaffarpur's women's police station, seeking 'suitable action' on the plight of girls interviewed by the TISS team.

    Expand
  3. 3. More Crimes Unfolded

    On 14 January 2020, The Caravan magazine reported that 12 victims, in their statements to the CBI, reported murders at Thakur's NGO-run shelter home in Muzaffarpur. According to the report:

    • A medical examination of 34 out of 42 inmates at the shelter home confirmed sexual exploitation.

    • 13 victims reported being raped by 'outsiders', with many being taken to hotels or aware of girls being taken out of their homes.

    • Most witnesses claimed they were regularly subjected to unnatural sex and rape, with Thakur as the main perpetrator.

    • 45 victims aged 12 to 20 were identified, with six of them being minors and two being deaf and mute.

    • One child also reported the abuse of a six-year-old girl.

    As per the report, witnesses claimed that two victims were told to kill a mentally disabled girl, but when they refused, Thakur threatened to kill them. A victim also reported seeing a "blood-dripping gunny bag" carried by a convict in the case.
    • Witnesses also claimed they were raped by "Kiran Aunty," who danced naked before the girls and coerced them to do so to inappropriate songs and have sexual intercourse with guests.

    • However, the court ruled that the prosecution couldn't prove these charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

    • Victims reported being given intoxicating drugs or sleeping pills, which left them semi-conscious or in deep sleep.

    • Several said they experienced abdominal and vaginal pain upon waking.

    According to The Print, during investigations, the Bihar police said in July 2018 that at least 34 girls were drugged and raped at the Balika Grih shelter home in Muzaffarpur.

    However, the CBI failed to prove specific charges about the victims being drugged or filmed during rape, and none of the convicts were charged with murder.

    According to The Print report, journalist Nivedita Jha filed a petition regarding the sexual abuse of minor girls at the Muzaffarpur shelter home in September 2018. Jha's lawyer, in their statement under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, argued that minor girls claimed their shelter home inmates were murdered.

    In 2019, the CBI reported to the Supreme Court that it recovered two skeletons from the Muzaffarpur shelter home, but forensic analysis confirmed they were of a man and a woman, not inmate minors.

    Later, the agency confirmed that the girls initially thought to have been murdered were found alive. In addition, the CBI submitted that over 70 officials in Bihar, including 25 IAS officers, had lapses in managing shelter homes and called for appropriate action against the officials.

    Expand
  4. 4. Outcomes of the Case

    According to a report by The Indian Express, in August 2018, the Supreme Court sought reports from the central and state governments in the Muzaffarpur shelter home case.

    • The Bihar government suspended six social welfare department assistant directors for delaying the TISS report.

    • The Supreme Court directed the media not to publish shelter abuse reports, but the apex court later clarified its order.

    • Bihar's social welfare minister, Manju Verma, resigned due to the shelter abuse case and her husband's ongoing Arms Act case in Begusarai.

    • In June 2019, the Supreme Court ordered the Bihar government to unite eight shelter-home girls with their families and provide financial and medical assistance to them.

    • In February 2022, the Bihar government submitted an action taken report in the Muzaffarpur shelter home abuse case to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

    • The government claimed that it paid compensation between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 9 lakh to 49 victims.

    Where are the victims now?

    According to the report, several victims are now living with their parents or relatives. Some of them are reportedly married.

    (With inputs from Newslaundry, The Indian Express, The Print, and The Caravan)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

A Brief Timeline of the Muzaffarpur Shelter Home Case

In 2018, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, audited 110 shelter homes in Bihar, exposing a racket involving sexual abuse of several young girls, including minors.

Bhumi Pednekar plays the role of an investigative journalist in 'Bhakshak'.
Brajesh Thakur, main accused in the Muzaffarpur shelter home case.
(Photo: PTI)
The report flagged 17 shelters as "grave concern," including the Balika Grih in Muzaffarpur, which was run by local politician Brajesh Thakur's NGO Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti.

The case came into limelight a month after the Bihar police acted on the TISS report and charged 11 people, including Brajesh Thakur, Dilip Kumar Verma, chairperson of the Muzaffarpur District Child Welfare Committee; Vikas Kumar, a member of the Child Welfare Committee; Ravi Roshan, a child protection officer; and Rosy Rani, assistant director of the child protection unit. According to a report by Newslaundry:

  • Many of those convicted were welfare officers who reportedly attended meetings to discuss the rehabilitation of victims after the case was spotlighted in the media.

  • In July 2018, the Patna High Court took suo motu cognizance of the case based on media reports, also receiving two PILs.

  • However, the investigation into the case was transferred to the CBI.

  • In August 2018, the Supreme Court viewed the case as a "state-sponsored incident" and inquired if the credentials of Thakur’s NGO had been checked.

"If you are doling out funds to NGOs without verifying their credentials, it almost amounts to state involvement. It will appear that all their wrongdoings are state sponsored," Justices Deepak Gupta, KM Joseph, and Madan B Lokur had observed.
  • In September 2018, the CBI recorded statements of victims, some of whom became witnesses for the prosecution.

  • The CBI charged 20 people in the case, of whom nine were women.

  • In February 2019, the apex court transferred the trial to a Delhi court, which announced its verdict 11 months later.

  • On 20 January 2020, Sessions Judge Saurabh Kulshreshtha convicted 19 people, including Thakur, Verma, Kumar, Roshan, and Rani.

According to a report by The Print, the women accused in the case were convicted of criminal conspiracy, Section 12 (sexual harassment) of the POCSO Act, abetment of crime, and provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act.

Thakur, who was the prime accused in the case, was convicted on multiple grounds of rape, gangrape (Section 376(d), IPC), criminal conspiracy, aggravated sexual assault under Section 6 of the POCSO Act, and offences under the Juvenile Justice Act.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

The Role of TISS & Their 'Koshish Project'

Bhumi Pednekar plays the role of an investigative journalist in 'Bhakshak'.

The RJD, the Congress, and the Communist Party of India legislators stage a protest against the Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case, during the ongoing Monsoon Session, outside Bihar Assembly in Patna on 26 July 2018.

(Photo Courtesy: X)

In June 2017, a group of researchers led by TISS' Mohammed Tarique met senior official Atul Prasad, who was then Secretary of the Social Welfare Department in the Bihar government, seeking permission to survey the condition of some private shelter homes in the state.

According to a report by The Print, Prasad suggested to TISS researchers that government shelters and short-stay homes should also be included in the survey in order to get a comprehensive picture of the situation.

The mandate was to find instances of best practices and suggest strategies to enhance the living conditions of inmates in 110 shelter homes across Bihar.

The TISS researchers found complaints of harassment and sexual abuse at 15 of these shelter homes. However, the report, which was published in April 2018 by a seven-member team of young psychologists of TISS' field-action project called the ‘Koshish Project', made startling revelations about "physical and sexual violations" of several young girls, particularly at the Muzaffarpur shelter home.

In May 2018, the department filed an FIR at Muzaffarpur's women's police station, seeking 'suitable action' on the plight of girls interviewed by the TISS team.

0

More Crimes Unfolded

On 14 January 2020, The Caravan magazine reported that 12 victims, in their statements to the CBI, reported murders at Thakur's NGO-run shelter home in Muzaffarpur. According to the report:

  • A medical examination of 34 out of 42 inmates at the shelter home confirmed sexual exploitation.

  • 13 victims reported being raped by 'outsiders', with many being taken to hotels or aware of girls being taken out of their homes.

  • Most witnesses claimed they were regularly subjected to unnatural sex and rape, with Thakur as the main perpetrator.

  • 45 victims aged 12 to 20 were identified, with six of them being minors and two being deaf and mute.

  • One child also reported the abuse of a six-year-old girl.

As per the report, witnesses claimed that two victims were told to kill a mentally disabled girl, but when they refused, Thakur threatened to kill them. A victim also reported seeing a "blood-dripping gunny bag" carried by a convict in the case.
  • Witnesses also claimed they were raped by "Kiran Aunty," who danced naked before the girls and coerced them to do so to inappropriate songs and have sexual intercourse with guests.

  • However, the court ruled that the prosecution couldn't prove these charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • Victims reported being given intoxicating drugs or sleeping pills, which left them semi-conscious or in deep sleep.

  • Several said they experienced abdominal and vaginal pain upon waking.

According to The Print, during investigations, the Bihar police said in July 2018 that at least 34 girls were drugged and raped at the Balika Grih shelter home in Muzaffarpur.

However, the CBI failed to prove specific charges about the victims being drugged or filmed during rape, and none of the convicts were charged with murder.

According to The Print report, journalist Nivedita Jha filed a petition regarding the sexual abuse of minor girls at the Muzaffarpur shelter home in September 2018. Jha's lawyer, in their statement under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, argued that minor girls claimed their shelter home inmates were murdered.

In 2019, the CBI reported to the Supreme Court that it recovered two skeletons from the Muzaffarpur shelter home, but forensic analysis confirmed they were of a man and a woman, not inmate minors.

Later, the agency confirmed that the girls initially thought to have been murdered were found alive. In addition, the CBI submitted that over 70 officials in Bihar, including 25 IAS officers, had lapses in managing shelter homes and called for appropriate action against the officials.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Outcomes of the Case

According to a report by The Indian Express, in August 2018, the Supreme Court sought reports from the central and state governments in the Muzaffarpur shelter home case.

  • The Bihar government suspended six social welfare department assistant directors for delaying the TISS report.

  • The Supreme Court directed the media not to publish shelter abuse reports, but the apex court later clarified its order.

  • Bihar's social welfare minister, Manju Verma, resigned due to the shelter abuse case and her husband's ongoing Arms Act case in Begusarai.

  • In June 2019, the Supreme Court ordered the Bihar government to unite eight shelter-home girls with their families and provide financial and medical assistance to them.

  • In February 2022, the Bihar government submitted an action taken report in the Muzaffarpur shelter home abuse case to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

  • The government claimed that it paid compensation between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 9 lakh to 49 victims.

Where are the victims now?

According to the report, several victims are now living with their parents or relatives. Some of them are reportedly married.

(With inputs from Newslaundry, The Indian Express, The Print, and The Caravan)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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