February 16, 2020 1:18:42 am
A day after police booked four people, including the principal of Shree Sahjananda Girls Institute (SSGI) in Bhuj, for allegedly forcing students to strip to “prove” they were not menstruating, statements of 43 students of the institute and a few other witnesses were recorded on Saturday. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also said that the government had taken a very serious note of the incident and ordered strict action.
“The treatment meted out to the daughters in Bhuj by the teachers of the college with respect to their menstruation period is unbecoming and criminal. A police complaint was registered yesterday. The government has taken a very serious note of the incident and the home and education departments have issued instructions for very strict action,” Rupani told mediapersons on Saturday.
Kutch (west) police said they had already launched an investigation in the incident. “We recorded statements of 43 students in connection with the case. The statements support the incident of college authorities making the students to strip. We also recorded statement of some independent witnesses and have seized CCTV footage. A team of forensic experts is also assisting us in the investigation,” an officer associated with the investigation of the alleged sexual harassment case said.
Police, however, said nobody was detained or arrested till Saturday evening. “We are gathering evidence against the accused before making arrests,” said the officer.
On Thursday, a group of students of SSGI and their parents had approached the media and complained that the management of the institute ordered 68 of them to go out of a class room and sit in a passage on the suspicion that students were violating the institute’s ‘rules’ for women students during their menstrual period.
While two of the students said that they were in their monthly period of menstruation, the authorities allegedly forced the remaining 66 to go to a washroom and strip so that it could be ascertained if they were menstruating on that day or not. The students said the alleged incident took place on February 11.
After the matter came to light, Krantiguru Shyamji Krishna Verma Kachh University (KSKVKU) to which the SSGI is affiliated, formed a fact-finding committee. The committee had prima facie concluded that the incident did take place and directed removal of SSGI principal Rita Raninga, hostel rector and a peon. A few girl students had told The Indian Express that the hostel also forced them to enter dates of their menstrual periods. SSGI and the hostel where the students are staying are run by the Swaminarayan sect having its temple in Bhuj town and the management said that being a religious organisation, they follow certain customs regarding menstruating women.
After girls protested and the varsity’s direction, SSGI had on Friday suspended principal Rita Raninga, hostel coordinator Anita Chauhan, hostel supervisor Rameelaben and peon Naynaben pending an inquiry. Based on a complaint given by one of the students, ‘A’ Division police of Bhuj town had booked the four for sexual harassment, extortion, criminal intimidation, etc.
Meanwhile, a team of Gujarat State Commission for Women (GSCW) also met the students in Bhuj on Saturday.
After an FIR was registered, a group of students of SSGI assembled at ‘A’ Division police station and protested that the complainant had merely given a statement and had not lodged a formal complaint. But the investigating officer said the protests were irrelevant. “If someone strikes a compromise with somebody, it is their concern. As a professional officer, what one has to investigate if there is material supporting the case as made out in the complaint and investigations so far do support the case,” said the police officer.
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