For as long as a month from the day she was allegedly gangraped, the 16-year-old couldn’t speak a word about it. But on September 14, after she missed her period, the fear of being pregnant finally made her confide in a friend in the hostel of their boarding school on the outskirts of Dehradun.
That’s when, police and officials said, the school authorities got together to ensure silence and secrecy.
The girl told the friend that on August 14, four boys, all fellow students, had taken turns to allegedly rape her inside a room on the campus. She confided that her month-long silence was due to fear and shock from the alleged rape and warnings from the boys that she would be defamed if she told anyone about it.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Seema Dora, a member of the Uttarakhand child protection commission who spoke to the girl on Monday, said she repeated one line several times: “Mujhe apna saal kharab nahin karna (I don’t want to spoil a year in school).”
“As she told us about the events that unfolded over the last month, there was no emotion. It was as if the rape and the trauma had left her in shock,” Dora said.
According to the sequence of events put together by police and officials probing the case, and the FIR filed by the girl’s father, she spoke to a few other friends in the hostel, too, on September 14 but only to ask whether missing her periods could mean pregnancy.
On the same day, she told the school administrative officer’s wife and the hostel caretaker about the alleged rape and fear of pregnancy. The officer’s wife told her husband about the incident, and both convinced the girl to consume a home-made drink, “kadhaa”, to end a possible pregnancy.
Then they took the matter to the principal, police and officials said. Meanwhile, they said, experiments with “kadhaa” and other medicines continued in the hostel.
“The school authorities were worried that any information about the rape and the pregnancy would have grave consequences on the school’s reputation and their jobs. So they did everything possible to make the issue disappear,” Kavita Sharma, chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Dehradun, said. Sharma conducted the preliminary investigation in the case on Sunday night and brought the issue to light.
On Tuesday, five members of the school administration and staff — the director, principal, the administrative officer and his wife, and the hostel caretaker — and one of the boys, who is an adult, were presented in the POCSO court and sent to judicial custody for 14 days. The three minor boys were taken to the juvenile justice board facility in Dehradun.
“The school wanted to brush the case under the carpet. But the pregnancy could boomerang on them, so the principal alerted the director who is based in another campus of the group which runs the school,” Usha Negi, chairperson of the state’s child rights protection commission, said.
Negi said she spoke to the girl about the incident on Monday. “On Sunday morning, the school director met the girl and told her that the school was part of a big group that ran a number of institutes in Dehradun and that the incident would defame all of them. The director also told the girl that if she spoke about the incident, she would be expelled from the school,” Negi said.
On Sunday, after her meeting with the director, the girl was taken to a private clinic in Dehradun to get the pregnancy tested and an abortion done, if needed.
Meanwhile, the FIR states, the victim’s younger sister, who is also a student in the school, told their family in Delhi on phone about the fear of pregnancy. She said she had heard about the incident from other girls in the hostel. According to the school’s regulations, students are only allowed to use their phones for two hours every Sunday.
The doctor at the private clinic who attended to the girl on Sunday declined comment. Dora, the child protection commission member, said she spoke to the doctor on Tuesday. “The doctor told us that she had prescribed the girl some medication, and that she didn’t perform any physical examination on the girl,” Dora said.
According to Dora, the doctor said that a man and a woman who claimed to be the girl’s parents had accompanied her. Police later found that the couple was the school’s administrative officer and his wife.
The police got wind of the case on Sunday night when a journalist, who was tipped off about the pregnancy by a source in the school, alerted Dehradun SSP Nivedita Kukreti. “I immediately ordered a team to visit the campus. But I didn’t know it would turn out to be a gangrape,” Kukreti said.
At around 9.30 pm that day, CWC chairperson Sharma, a sub-inspector and a constable, who were part of the team set up by Kukreti, reached the school. The girl remained tightlipped for about two hours, Sharma said. “She said nothing had happened. But I could tell from her silence, and her answers that were limited to “yes” and “no”, that she was hiding something,” she said.
“Finally, the girl told me everything. She said she had told her friends and school authorities about the rape on August 14 itself. But they didn’t report it to police,” Sharma said.
On Monday, police arrested the four boys and five members of the school administration and staff who were named in the FIR registered at the Sahaspur police station on charges under IPC sections 376D (gangrape), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence), and the POCSO Act.