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Friday, Oct 07, 2022

She had to borrow mother’s stole, says father of Kerala girl forced to remove innerwear

The father of the 17-year-old said that during frisking before the exam at her Kollam centre in Kerala, she was asked to take off her inner wear by the agency contracted to do the checks, citing NEET guidelines.

Students appear for NEET exam at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Kadavanthra, Kochi | Photo: Nitin RK

THE FATHER of the 17-year-old who has claimed she was forced to remove her inner wear for taking the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) Sunday said his daughter had to borrow his wife’s stole to cover up.

Speaking to The Indian Express over the phone, the father, a local businessman, said the “traumatic experience” compelled him to file an FIR with the local police, and he didn’t want any other person to go through such “humiliation”. The 17-year-old did not want to talk to the media.

The alleged incident took place at a private examination centre in Kollam district’s Ayur. Another applicant from the centre has come forward and spoken now to local television channels about the incident. She said that since she could not arrange anything to cover herself with after removing the innerwear, she tried to use her hair.

“I wanted to file a case so that no student faces such a plight in the future. It was heartbreaking to see my child so shaken,” the father of the 17-year-old said, adding that he was satisfied with the Centre and state government’s response. “They seem to be taking the case seriously.”

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In a letter to Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Kerala Higher Education Minister R Bindu expressed “dismay and shock” at the “naked assault on the dignity and honour of the girl students” who attended the exam at the particular centre. She added that she “strongly recommend” action against the agency that was in charge of conducting the examination. Meanwhile, the Kerala State Human Rights Commission also ordered an investigation into the incident and directed Kollam Rural SP to file a report within 15 days. The Union Minister is yet to react to the incident.

The National Testing Authority, which conducted the exam, however, has dismissed the allegation that girls were told to remove inner-wear. “No complaint or representation has been received by us. On basis of claims in media reports, an immediate report was sought from the centre superintendent and observer. They have informed that no such incident took place and the complaint is fictitious and has been filed with wrong intentions,” a senior NTA official said.

However, a senior Education Ministry official said the NTA is sending a team to Kerala to probe the incident.

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The official told PTI that the NEET dress code does not require inner wear to be removed, and that care is taken to ensure sensitivity towards gender, culture and religion during the frisking of candidates.

The father of the 17-year-old said that during frisking before the exam at her Kollam centre, she was asked to take off her inner wear by the agency contracted to do the checks, citing NEET guidelines. Warned that she would not be able to take the exam if she didn’t comply, she requested officials to lend her a stole, the father said. When told there was none to spare, she asked them to let her borrow one from her mother, who was waiting outside the exam centre. An official present then used his phone to call up the parents, who came to the gate of the exam centre and handed over her mother’s stole.

The father said that when they reached the gate, the 17-year-old who was standing on the other side was crying. He said they were concerned and enquired with the authorities, but they attributed her tears to pre-exam jitters, and asked them to just hand over the mother’s stole. He said he was surprised at the request. They only got to know what had happened after the three-hour exam got over and their teary-eyed daughter came out and recounted what had happened, he said.

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The father insisted that his daughter was not checked as part of a random check, and that the 17-year-old said nearly all the girl applicants had been forced to remove their inner-wear. He also claimed that the students had been packed into “closed rooms with no regard for Covid protocols” for frisking, and asked why the girls had been made to share a room with male students for the exam, especially after what had happened during frisking.

The father said that writing the examination was in itself a stressful affair, and an incident such as this would only affect students’ chances. “But she has not allowed this to affect her and is preparing for next year’s NEET exam,” he said.

Another student’s parent said his daughter too reported similar treatment. While going through the scanner, the metal hook of the brassiere set off an alarm following which the student was asked to step aside into a room where a female official asked her to remove the innerwear and keep it on a table. At least two dozen other girls were present in the room. There was no privacy nor was a separate room given for this purpose, said the girl’s father, adding that once the exam was over, the girls were directed to the same room to retrieve the garment. However, when she went in, the 17-year-old girl’s father claimed, she saw that the room was crowded and the garments were heaped on a table, making it difficult to identify which one belonged to whom. One of the female officials present in the room asked the girls to take the garment in hand and leave instead of waiting to put it back on.

“I could ask questions like ‘what if there was a hidden camera in the room’, but I believe that this behaviour came from a place of ignorance rather than deliberate ill intent,” he said. He added that he will not be filing a police complaint because it might adversely affect his daughter’s future. “We don’t have the time or means to go behind a case for years and we don’t want to blame any particular person or party over this,” he said, adding that the only reason he spoke out is to ensure that this is not repeated to anyone else in the future.

First published on: 19-07-2022 at 04:20:55 pm
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