A government school principal in the Jind district of Haryana has been arrested on charges of sexually harassing about 60 female students in his school over the past six years.
He allegedly lured the students to his office, which had a black glass cabin, and molested them. He also threatened to fail them in exams if they reported the incident.
The case came to light after the students wrote anonymous letters to the President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India, and the National Commission for Women, exposing the principal’s behaviour. The letters also named a female teacher who acted as his accomplice and sent the students to his office.
The principal was arrested last week by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Haryana Police after a month of inaction. He faces charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, Sections, 354-A (sexual harassment), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 342 (wrongful confinement) of the Indian Penal Code.
The school has more than 1200 female students and 40 teachers, including a non-teaching staff, of which about half are female members.
Since the incident came to light, female students have been advised to not come forward or talk to any outsider who visits the school. CCTV cameras have now been installed in the entire school, including the principal’s room.
It is also to be noted that the principal had been posted in the same school for the last six years without being transferred, while the rest of the staff had been transferred several times during this period.
People are also alleging that the principal is related to an influential political family, which is why he enjoyed impunity. It is alleged that many girls left the school because of the principal’s actions.
The Haryana State Commission for Women (HSCW) is also probing the allegations and has summoned the police officials, the education department, and the victimized girls for discussions. The principal, however, failed to appear before the commission.
“We have received 60 written complaints against the principal from the girl students. Out of this, 50 are complaints from girls who stated physical abuse at the hands of the accused. Ten other girls, in their complaint, said they knew the principal was into such things,” the State Commission for Women’s chairperson Renu Bhatia said.
“Initially, we received a complaint on September 13 from some female students and forwarded it to the police the very next day. From September 14 to October 29, there was no action on their end,” Bhatia said, pointing at the “lackadaisical approach” of the Jind police in the matter.
Child Welfare Committee Counselor Mamata Sharma said that the students are scared and have a lot to say but the atmosphere has turned against them.
“This incident has had a deep impact on the minds of girls, and some new things may also come up in the future,” she told BBC.