People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 36

September 04, 2011



Stop Violence against Girls in Schools


U Vasuki


PODHUMBU is a small village in Madurai district in Tamilnadu. About 3000 families inhabit the village and most of them are poor agricultural labourers. The village houses a Government High School upto tenth standard which educates 500 boys and girls.

A month ago, a girl student asked a local CPI(M) activist, “you are organising struggles for ration, water, roads etc. Can’t you take up the problems we face in the school?” On further enquiry, it was found that the head master of the school has been continuously molesting and sexually abusing the girl students for the past three years. Infuriated by the information, the AIDWA committee of Madurai rural district plunged into action. Some of the girls poured out their hearts and the AIDWA formed a fact finding team with other women’s organisations and NGOs and what they gathered was a sheer nightmare which cannot be put on paper. On the one hand the girls are put to severe mental trauma and on the other the boys who used to see the vulgar display of the HM with the girls in the class room are also affected.


When the issue came up in the area, the local police tried their usual outdated tactics of saying that the girls will not get married if they made it public and it is advisable to transfer the head master and keep quiet.  The AIDWA organised a road roko which was led by the district secretary Ponnuthai and saw the participation of more than 200 villagers including the students. That pressured the police into filing an FIR on July 13.


The issue did not end there. Despite meeting the superintendent of police and the district collector, the culprit was not arrested. The district education department suspended him and thereafter he got himself admitted to a hospital complaining of chest pain and he was not apprehended. Some of the local people who were bribed by him were threatening the parents and trying to get signatures of the students on a statement certifying the HM as a man of good conduct. We have heard teachers issuing conduct certificate for students, but this reverse case is a cruel joke!!  Posters were pasted damaging the AIDWA’s name and praising the district administration. Meanwhile, a parent filed a case in the Madurai bench of Madras High court and the court appointed a committee under the child welfare commission to make a preliminary enquiry.


The issue was taken up with the director general of police and a petition was given to the chief minister. Since there was absolute inaction or rather action against the victims, the AIDWA state conference gave a call for laying  siege of the SP’s office on August 26 (after one and a half months from the date of FIR).


Police sources contacted the leaders of the movement and explained that a special team has been formed to nab the culprit. On the day of the siege, both men and women police were deployed in large numbers. The additional SP and deputy commissioner came in person and gave assurances. But undeterred by all that, scores of women including the villagers led by national secretary U Vasuki, state president N Amirtham and state general secretary P Suganthi courted arrest on that day. This happened despite the intimidation by the police on the previous days in the village. A woman officer went to the village at about 9 pm amidst heavy rain and there was no electricity and insisted on enquiring the girls in the middle of the road. She asked questions like what the head master did, what date, which hour, which minute etc. A male officer went to the school and asked similar obscene and embarrassing questions to the girls whose parents have complained. On top of this, the police got a counter complaint from the school ayah that the husbands of the complainants misbehaved with her and with that weapon came knocking on the doors at 11 pm. 15 persons were falsely implicated for the ‘crime’ of pasting the AIDWA’s posters about the struggle, whereas FIR was filed on four persons who pasted posters incriminating the AIDWA.


Amidst this, Brinda Karat, patron of AIDWA came to Madurai on August 27 to inaugurate the first state conference of the Tamilnadu unit of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled. She was outraged by the happenings and rushed to the village along with other leaders. The parents narrated their woes in a detailed manner. Brinda called the additional SP on phone since SP was on leave and expressed condemnation in no uncertain terms and asked him to send some senior police officials to the village to record the statements of women who were harassed by the police persons. In no time, two deputy SPs turned up and they literally struggled to answer her questions. Brinda charged that the right to education bill has been passed in parliament to ensure education but the act of the HM has gone against its spirit. She expressed her outrage and indignation at the way the women and children were treated at the hands of the police. This intervention drew the attention of the home secretary and he immediately sent two higher officials to Podhumbu to ascertain the situation. State secretary for school education department has called for a  report. The police officers who acted insensitively were removed from the investigation. Two more special squads were set up to trace the accused. After all this, the culprit surrendered in Madurai court on the August 30 and has been remanded to judicial custody.


Meanwhile, the child welfare committee’s report released in a section of the press fully confirms the barbaric happenings and has come out with concrete suggestions and recommendations.


The reality is that such incidents of sexual assault by the teachers is not confined to Podhumbu alone. When the AIDWA took it up as a campaign in many districts, reports of such happenings in other schools were heard. This has prompted the 13th state conference of AIDWA to give a clarion call to observe November 25 – International Day against Violence – as the day of protection for girls in educational institutions.


The support of the AIDWA has certainly strengthened the fight of Podhumbu people for justice. The AIDWA has demanded that the investigation must be swift and sensitive. The concept of complaints committee as per Vishaka guidelines must  be extended to schools also. Parents-Teachers Association must be sensitised towards this. It has demanded setting up of a state child rights protection commission on the lines of national commission.


As Brinda Karat pointed out, it is the right to education we want and not the right to sexual assault which people like Arockiasamy claim to have.