Ghaziabad Swami charged with rape

NDTV, India/December 1, 2006

After NDTV reported sexual abuse of children by a Swami in Ghaziabad near Delhi – he is arrested and charged with rape and other offenses.

During the investigation, NDTV correspondent Anchal Vohra spent 10 days undercover at the Balanath ashram.

On Friday, Baba Balnath - charged with outraging the modesty of women, rape and criminal intimidation, has been ordered to appear in court on Saturday.

The National Commission for Women and Uttar Pradesh government have decided to move the children – all girls – out of the Swami's ashram to shelters in Uttar Pradesh.

The younger children will to taken to Agra and the older girls to Meerut. The NGOs 'Stop' and Shakti Vahini will oversee their transportation and care.

The girls staying at the ashram, many of them orphans, claim they have been sexually abused by the in-house swami. Among the swami's alleged victims are young, mentally challenged orphans.

The Chief Justice of India has asked the National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Women and the district magistrate to submit reports on the case.

The chairperson of the National Commission for Women Girija Vyas has also reached the ashram in Ghaziabad.

In the 10 days the NDTV team spent at the ashram, the stories got progressively worse.

"He beat me up when I was a kid and did not give me any treatment. He beats us with sticks and slippers and also abuses us," claimed Shikha, an inmate.

"Everyone was watching TV and kids were playing here when swamiji stripped me naked and abused me physically," said Preeti.

Swami Balanath, who set up his ashram in 1975, is the man who one child after another describes as a monster. In the year 2000, his assets were valued at almost Rs 15 lakh.

Govt funding denied

Although the swami denies any government funding, records with NDTV show donations worth over Rs 1 lakh from the UP government.

Nearly 65 girls, most of whom are still not in their teens, live here. The swami says his ashram is basically an orphanage, but he discusses the children here with chilling contempt.

"These girls are very naughty and are even brainwashing the kids here. What do you have in mind for the adults here? If I start taking care of these girls, I will get ruined. These are not good girls. But most girls grew up here," said Swami Balanath.

Most of the girls NDTV spoke to cannot remember how they got here, but they are desperate to leave.

The more daring have even tried to escape. They complained to the police about the swami but instead of helping them, the police forced them back into their hell.

"We jumped off the wall at around 1 am, but were caught by the police an hour later and sent back to the ashram," said Meena, an inmate.

"The police told us that we will have to return to the place from where we came from," added Rinki, another girl.

Special children suffering

The ashram contains several dormitories. In a ward here, mentally challenged orphans are kept locked.

NDTV found Neela, a young girl, who was badly bruised and in tattered clothes. Around her, the stench was unbearable.

The special needs children at the ashram have never met a doctor or a therapist. But what they suffer on a regular basis is far worse.

NDTV: What does Babaji do?

Ruby: He misbehaves with us. He undressed me.

Other children in the ashram confirm these accounts. Board member Sudha lives at the ashram and admits that she has heard countless charges of abuse against the swami, but has never confronted him or reported the matter to any authority.

NDTV: Do you think there is sexual harassment here?

Sudha: It looks like that. The girls have complained to me many times. When they don't agree to his advances, he beats them.

The swami confirms that his ashram is officially registered as an orphanage in Uttar Pradesh. He claims that government officials regularly visit his ashram to ensure the children here are well looked-after.

An 11-member control board appointed by the government has to explain why the ashram and the swami have never been examined for alleged child abuse.

NCW intervenes

NDTV repeatedly approached the Ministry for Women and Child Development.

Yet despite constant attempts, Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhary and her staff refused to intervene.

They were shown recorded footage of girls claiming sexual abuse. But after two weeks of no response, NDTV approached the National Commission For Women (NCW).

On Thursday, the NCW, NGOs STOP and Shakti Vahini along with the NDTV team and CISF raided the ashram and found what should have been a sanctuary was in fact a prison.

In fact, most of the children were behind a locked door.

With the keys kept in an office several hundred meters away, escape would be difficult in case of an emergency. Inside, there were more horrors: children left to fend for themselves.

"The conditions are deplorable. There is no hygiene. This is not an ashram," said Malani Bhattacharya, Member, NCW.

"I have asked that the girls be moved to Nirmal Chhaya in Delhi for their safety and also, so that we can monitor them," she added.

By the time the Ghaziabad police arrived, the children were clearly anxious to move out. They started packing their few belongings. For some though, the strain of their ordeal was too much.


"We have ordered a two-member inquiry and if anyone is found guilty, then they will be punished," said the Ghaziabad DM.

However, the anger outside clearly grew. "There have been similar complaints in the past," said a local.

"Bring him out and we will blacken his face," added another.

"This is a human issue and not a political one. I urge the government to take strong action against the culprits, otherwise it would be proved that there is no law and order in the state," said Rashid Alvi, Congress MP.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.