Schools and universities are spaces for learning, progressive ideas and intellectual discourses. Of late, dark shadows seem to hover over these prestigious institutions, following episodes of objectionable videos filmed by a hostel inmate in a Chandigarh University and obscene content displayed by a 47-year-old man outside a school in Jharkhand.
Now, another incident of atrocities against girl students has emerged, this time in Dharampur, the tribal belt of Gujarat. Seven cooks have been accused of sexual harassment at the Girls Literacy Residential School, which has 634 students.
Parents stormed into the hostel along with the police on Wednesday to protest and register a complaint against the cooks. By then, the cooks, who hailed from Kathiawar, had already fled the place.
The Vibes of India has a copy of the complaint, demanding immediate arrest of the accused. An FIR has not been lodged yet.
Dharampur police sub-inspector Nitesh Kumar Sagar has confirmed that no video has been produced. He said an FIR will be registered after the investigation. Strangely, the principal of the school, Acharya Neema Ben Choudhary, denied any knowledge of the matter. The school’s inaction gave the perverts an easy escape route.
It has emerged that the cooks would constantly make sexual advances at the girls, most of whom belonged to tribal areas. The girls reported that they would often make lewd comments like, “Sleep with me at least for a night.”
Wary of embarrassment, the girls remained silent. When the cooks wouldn’t relent, they finally decided to lodge a complaint. However, the cooks found ways to subdue them, like imposing fines for keeping ceiling fans on.
The matter came to a head following a WhatsApp alert that they shot videos of the girls while they were bathing. Their suspicion became stronger as the cooks’ acts of misconduct became increasingly unmanageable.
One student is already contemplating quitting studies, fearing that the suspected video will go viral, her parent confided to The Vibes of India.
In March this year, the government launched a nationwide campaign on the eve of International Women’s Day to bring girls back into the educational system. With sexual predators moving around freely, will girls want to go to school? Without institutional involvement and strong government intervention to make schools secure for girls, women’s education in India will remain wishful thinking.