The gang rape of Bilkis Bano and so many others in Gujarat 2002 was part of a cold-blooded campaign of genocide, justified as a ‘reaction’ to Godhra. One wonders how Modi would explain the systematic and, it would seem, habitual rape of poor dalit women students in his glorious, ‘growing’ Gujarat.
At Patan Patan PTC College, a dalit young women from a poor family was a victim of gang rape by six male teachers of the college. Using the threat of internal marking, they took the advantage of her poverty, and raped her 14 times in four and half months inside the college and in the village. It came to be known that this woman was not the only victim; rather the sexual exploitation was rampant for a decade, and was patronised by local BJP leaders.
Ms. Anandiben Patel, the present Revenue Minister in the cabinet hails from this constituency, and had been the Education Minister of Gujarat for the same past decade when the sexual exploitation took place. The Patan PTC College is situated in the outskirt of the city with 8 feet high boundary walls and controlled by District Institute of Educational Technology (DIET).
The victim comes from a very poor background from Jetalvasana village of Visnagar Taluka of Mehsana district. She scored 89% in 10th Std and 70% in 12th Std. Her father, a daily labourer encouraged her to study. She wanted to be a doctor, but lack of funds made her opt for the PTC teachers’ training course. She was admitted to Patan PTC College July 07.
In less than two months after her admission, on 11-9-2007, she was summoned by a teacher to a classroom and subjected to gang rape. She was intimidated into silence by the teachers with threats of releasing pornographic photos of hers. This continued on several occasions; and the rapists included Prof. Atul Patel, an influential man known to be close to Anandiben Patel. He headed the election campaign of Anandi Ben Patel in 2002, and is said to be the kingpin in this sex racket. The teachers spread the word that she was possessed by an evil spirit in order to explain her fainting fits and disturbed state of mind.
The sole woman teacher, Prof. Bhartiben Patel, was appointed in 1997 but was transferred to Palanpur in 2001, because she complained about the sexual harassment of the students.
When the victim told her story on 30 January, and medical examination confirmed rape, 97 other women students filed a complaint in a signed memorandum to the Principal on 31 January. They were joined by parents in their protest, and on 4 February, the PTC students assaulted the accused lecturers with sticks, bricks, and damaged their bikes. 25,000 people of Patan joined in a protest rally. Patan town remained closed for two days. The protesting students and parents have demanded a probe into the role of Education Minister Ramanlal Vora; dismissal of all accused and scrapping of the internal examination system.
The students along with the parents went to Gandhinagar on 7 February but were not allowed to meet either the Chief Minister or the Education Minister. The P.A. to Education Minister trivialised the incidents, saying “such things go on”. Anandiben Patelclaimed that as Education Minister, “no complaint sexual harassment had ever reached her.” But the fact is that in 2004, one Draksha Parmar filed a complaint against teacher Manish Parmar. The case was sealed by the then Principal J.N. Chaudhary and hushed up.
The BJP is conspicuously silent on this matter. The Sangh Parivar and its outfits are absent from the scene. The Chief Minister has avoided visiting Patan, merely ordering a magisterial enquiry which is widely perceived as a cover up job.
The National Commission of Women team which visited Patan suspects more women were raped. There had been recommendations to scrap the internal marks in PTC College after a case of molestation of a girl student in Rajkot private PTC College in 2005 when Ms. Anandiben Patel was the Education minister. It was recommended to reduce the internal marks from 40% to 15% to 10%, but this decision was not taken. It is believed that the sexual harassment has become commonplace in PTC Colleges. In Meghraj Taluka, a Patan-type incident took place 22 years back where 15 women were victims.
There are 65000 PTC teachers unemployed in the state and this year more than 30000 will join their ranks. There are 16000 women studying in 134 women’s PTC colleges in Gujarat. In most of these colleges, there are no lady lecturers or even women wardens; though it is compulsory to stay in the hostel.
To run a PTC College is becoming a big business. National Council of Teachers’ Education [NCTE] introduced the policy of Self Finance in PTC. There are 431 PTC colleges, most of them self financed. The appointments are made on political grounds. There was not a single female teacher in 13 members’ staff for the past six years in Patan. There are 16 DIET colleges for men and six for women.
The Patan incident is just a tip of an iceberg. If such rampant sexual exploitation can happen in the DIET colleges then one can imagine what may be happening in the self financed colleges run by influential people in power. It is necessary to have a thorough investigation of all these self finance colleges, and to ensure implementation of the SC Visaka Judgement guidelines to stop sexual harassment in the workplace.