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Sexual harassment at Gargi College: FIR filed after protest by students

Students of the all-women’s college recalled a nightmarish afternoon as they spoke of dozens of men breaching security and sexually harassing them.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi | February 11, 2020 5:05:34 am
Sexual harassment at Gargi College: FIR filed after protest by students Outside Gargi College in New Delhi on Monday. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

HUNDREDS OF students of Delhi University’s Gargi College came out in protest Monday to demand action against outsiders who forcibly entered their campus and allegedly groped students during a college festival last week.

Students of the all-women’s college recalled a nightmarish afternoon as they spoke of dozens of men breaching security and sexually harassing them. The incident took place on February 6 — the third day of the college’s annual festival, Reverie. On Monday afternoon, an FIR was lodged by college authorities after pressure from students.

DCP (South) Atul Kumar Thakur said, “We have received a complaint from college authorities and an FIR under sections of trespassing, assault of women, and outraging women’s modesty has been registered at Hauz Khas police station.”

Read | Students tell Gargi College to increase security on campus

The case is being investigated by Inspector Pratibha Sharma, posted with the Crimes Against Women Cell of the south district, under supervision of Additional DCP (South) Gitanjali Khandelwal. “We have recovered CCTV footage from the college, efforts are on to identify the accused,” said a police officer.

Students skipped classes on Monday and gathered inside the campus, demanding accountability and action from college authorities, who, they alleged, have remained indifferent since the incident.

On February 8, officiating principal Promila Kumar had told The Indian Express that they had not received any complaint. “The event was open for boys studying in other colleges of Delhi University. We had police, commandos and bouncers on the campus, and staff were also on duty. There was an arena in the campus meant only for girls. If they were outside that, it was their personal choice,” she had said.

On Monday, many of the protesting students demanded that Kumar should resign over her inability to handle the situation.

“We refuse to accept that men can enter our college, molest us and leave calmly without repercussions,” said a second-year student.

On the first two days of the festival, entry into the campus was only allowed after verifying whether the person had a valid ID card of the college. On the day of the incident, each student was given a pass to allow entry to a guest — male or female — as singer Jubin Nautiyal was performing that evening. However, students alleged a complete breakdown of the security system.

“Students were entering from the main gate, while pass-holders were supposed to be entering from the second gate. However, starting from around 3:30 pm, hundreds of men began rushing in through the gate every time it opened to let in a vehicle or people. There were people jumping in over the walls while security and police personnel watched. Entry was supposed to shut at 4:30 pm but these people continued to come in till 6 pm. Many of them were clearly much older — men in their 30s, many drunk, walking inside Gargi College, groping girls and saying lewd things to them. It was unthinkable,” said a second-year student.

Several students said many of these men were walking inside the college without shirts.

“The concert was taking place on the college ground and an area close to the stage was barricaded just for Gargi College students. I was there with my friends, but men leaned over the barricades and groped us as well. In that crowd, there were men grabbing us by our waists. My friend, who is asthmatic, fainted after a group of men crowded around her. About five of us made a human chain to take her to a safe space and it took us 20 minutes to get out of the crowd,” said a third-year student.

Students also alleged they were unable to call for help because of no network connectivity. They alleged this was because of network jammers installed in the college, which authorities denied.

“We had both police personnel and private security arrangements in place. We did everything we could to regulate entry into the college but we were faced with a mob forcing their way in. We will set up a security protocol to ensure such incidents never take place again,” said Kumar on Monday.

Meanwhile, Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi raised the issue in Lok Sabha during Question Hour.

“Those who were involved in the incident were outsiders, not students. It was not a good incident. The college administration has been told to take action,” said HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “The misbehaviour with our daughters in Gargi College is saddening and disappointing. It cannot be tolerated. The guilty must get the severest punishment. And it should be ensured that students studying in our colleges are safe.”

On Monday, Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal visited the campus to speak to students. The commission issued notices to both college authorities and police for inaction. “The Commission visited the campus today and met the students, who stated that the police was present inside the campus during the incident but did not take any action against the harassers. We are also shocked to learn that despite repeated attempts by the students to take up the matter with college authorities in the last five days, no action was taken,” read the summons, issued to both the principal and DCP, South Delhi.

An internal fact-finding committee was also formed after a dialogue between students and college authorities. Kumar said the committee would comprise a teacher and student representative from each of the 17 departments of the college.

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