Directed by Pulkit, Bhakshak makes us privy to the horrifying incident that happened in the year 2018, where poor and helpless girls living in Muzaffarpur Shelter Home, Bihar, were tortured and abused and were treated worse than animals. Bhumi Pednekar played the character of Vaishali Singh, who could be said to be an amalgamation of many journalists and activists like Nivedita Jha, who gave their all and brought the truth to light. Vaishali not only unearths the truth, but she also makes sure that justice is served. So let’s figure out what all shown in the film actually happened in real life and if the makers took any creative liberties.
What happened in real life?
The events shown in the Bhakshak are based on real-life incidents that shook the entire nation and made us aware of what was happening in the state of Bihar. Though the names of the characters and places have been changed, and additionally, in a few places, some creative liberties have been taken, the makers have tried to keep the essence intact. In 2018, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences conducted an independent audit, something that is shown in the film, and it found that there were a lot of illicit activities going on in 17 shelter homes in Bihar. The girls living in one of the shelter homes in Muzaffarpur were tortured and physically abused, and it had been happening for a lot of years, but nobody dared to report the issue. Everybody knew what was happening there, but Brajesh Thakur was an influential man, and he had the entire system in his pocket.
The character of Bansi Sahu, portrayed on screen by Aditya Srivastava, is based on the local politician Brajesh Thakur, the main culprit in the case. As shown in the film, Thakur used to run a shelter home for girls called Balika Grih. If we didn’t know how brash, arrogant, abusive, and predatory Thakur was in real life, I personally would have thought that something like that could have never happened and gone undetected by the authorities. But we have a real-life case in front of us, and that’s how we know that even the minute details have some truth behind them and are not figments of somebody’s imagination. The biggest tragedy was that members of the child welfare department and even the ministers of the social welfare department were involved in the Muzaffarpur Shelter Home sexual abuse Case.
We saw in the film how Bansi Sahu used to bring Mithilesh Sinha, who used to work in the child welfare department, to the shelter home and sexually assault girls on a regular basis. It is also true that many female wardens used to molest the girls, and the victims told the authorities that they helped Brajesh Thakur cover up his lies. We saw in one of the scenes of the film that Baby Rani, the warden at Bansi’s shelter home, was telling the girls to obey the orders if they wanted to live. Sudha, the chef who ran for the shelter home, later told Vaishali Singh how the warden facilitated everything, how she knew about the murders, and how, at times, even she sexually assaulted the girls.
The entire system was rigged, and even after TISS submitted its report, no action was taken because the minister of social welfare wanted to safeguard her own vote bank. When the case was handed over to the Criminal Bureau of Investigation, they found out that there were 35 victims, though there were a lot of discrepancies in their report, which is why their credibility came into question.
How Did Politics Play an Important Role?
There is no denying that politics played a very crucial role in the scheme of things. We are talking about a local politician from Bihar, and he had this arrogance because he believed that wouldn’t ever be caught. In the film, we saw how Bansi Sahu didn’t even let the police enter his premises. The local authorities were scared of him, and I firmly believe that even after his neighbors had seen or heard something, they chose to be quiet. Here was a man who was linked to the top-notch politics of the ruling party, and obviously, he knew that he would bend the rules, play with this system, resort to corrupt tactics, but stay out of prison at all costs.
The film shows that the social welfare minister, Rajni Singh, and her husband, Brijmohan Singh, knew about what was happening in Bansi Sahu’s shelter home. Brijmohan Singh was, in fact, a frequent visitor, and he, too, was involved in the entire scheme of things. It was because of Rajni Singh that the social welfare department and the child protection unit had not acted upon the allegations. The characters of Rajni Singh and her husband take inspiration from real-life people. Manju Verma was the real-life minister of social welfare in the Bihar cabinet when the incident happened. It was said that her husband, Chandeshwar Verma, was very close to Brajesh Thakur, and he wanted to protect the man. After suo-moto cognizance of the case was taken by the apex authority, Manju Verma went missing, and it was only after a few months, when a lot of pressure was put on her, that she surrendered. Such is our corrupt system that she got bail soon after that, and the incident didn’t seem to tarnish her reputation at all, something that is not shown in the film.
What Was Nivedita’s Jha Role in Real Life?
Director Pulkit and his team took a few creative liberties when it came to the character of Vaishali Singh, which is based on a real-life journalist named Nivedita Jha. It is shown in Bhakshak that Guptaji told Vaishali about the TISS report, after which she conducted her own inquiry and then later came to know what had been happening. A PIL was filed by Guptaji, and the perpetrators believed that it was Vaishali’s brother-in-law, who was also a lawyer, who had filed it. Her brother was thrashed by Sonu on Bansi Sahu’s orders, and Vaishali then goes to the local police station to file a report, only to be turned down by the officer in charge, who told her upfront that he would not include the politician’s name in the report.
Vaishali met SSP Jasmeet Gaur, and that’s when she realized that unless and until the police have some solid evidence, they will not be able to make the arrest or take any sort of action. Vaishali convinced Sudha to come on her channel and give her testimony, and after a lot of hesitation, Sudha agreed. That’s when Jasmeet Gaur raided Sahu’s home and arrested him and his men.
It is true that, even in reality, the police didn’t take any sort of action after the TISS report came out. Nivedita Jha and other activists conducted state-wide protests and brought the news to light. It was after that that the authorities started investigating the matter. There were, in total, 4 PILs filed by Nivedita Jha in the Supreme Court. The first one was when the Patna High Court put a ban on the media houses from reporting anything about the Brajesh Thakur case. That’s when Nivedita Jha moved the Supreme Court and asked the apex authority to remove the ban, and she succeeded in her attempts. The second PIL was filed when Jha realized that only one shelter home was being investigated, and she urged the apex authority to bring all the shelter homes under the radar. In the third PIL, Nivedita Jha informed the Supreme Court about the botched-up investigation being carried out by the CBI and how they were not taking into consideration the fact that the girls had been murdered by the likes of Brajesh Thakur and others. The fourth and final PIL was filed when Nivedita Jha realized that no action was being taken against the ruling party when it was very clear that without their permission and knowledge, nothing could have happened in the case.
What Happened to the Culprits and the Victims?
When an organization like the CBI is roped in, people believe that a fair investigation will happen. But this was not the case in this particular incident. There is no denying that it was a botched-up investigation, and it could be ascertained from how the CBI’s report changed from time to time. The film ended after the arrest of Bansi Sahu, but it was after that that the real drama started.
Firstly, the CBI said that there were a few girls that were murdered, but later, they stated in their report that all 35 girls were safe and sound, and the bodies that were recovered were of somebody else. The victims, in their testimonies, clearly stated that there were girls who were murdered, and they also said that they saw blood-soaked gunny bags being taken out of the shelter homes. In Bhakshak, too, we saw that in one scene, Sonu and others were taking out a dead body in a gunny bag after they killed a victim who tried to fight back.
There was no denying that people from higher up the food chain were involved in it, and when they realized that the matter had gained a lot of coverage and that they couldn’t suppress it, they decided to make people like Brajesh Thakur, the scapegoat. Brajesh Thakur was given rigorous imprisonment for life, along with four more people. Additionally, six more people were given a 10-year sentence, but sadly, no action was taken against the people of the ruling party.