India: Teachers who gang-raped their own students linked to Modi government

An incredible case of repeated gang rape of female students in Indian colleges was revealed last year, eventually leading to the culprits being sentenced to life imprisonment. But this was no ordinary case of rape; it involved an attempt at a cover-up that led right to the top of the national government itself. It was only the courageous action of the female students, a female teacher and then the families of the victims that eventually achieved justice. The case has brought out the terrible suffering that ordinary working people in India have to bear.

On March 6, 2009, a Fast Track Court in Ahmedabad convicted all the six accused in the Patan gang rape case and sentenced them to life imprisonment. The accused are not only active members of the right-wing ‘Sangh Parivar’, but are directly associated or related to those in Narendra Modi’s cabinet.

Narendra Modi's government has been implicated in a cover-up of rape of poor girls. Photo by World Economic Forum.
Narendra Modi's government has been implicated in cover-up of rape of poor girls. Photo by World Economic Forum.

After gang rapes of several Muslim women, including mass rape of Bilkis Bano as part of the 2002 Godhra genocide, the saffron brigades of Narendra Modi turned to poor Hindu girls, committing gang rape of at least 98 such girls in Patan, Gujarat. Most shameful was the fact that this time the offenders were all teachers and the victims were their own students. In a case, where the victim dared to withstand all humiliation, threats and harassment, the Fast Track Court ultimately found the accused guilty and sentenced them to life. The people however demanded that the accused be handed over to them.

The Patan serial gang rape case shook the conscience of civilised society, when on the heels of the electoral victory of the BJP in Gujarat, i.e. only two months after the December 2007 elections were over, it was revealed that at least six teachers of the Women’s Teacher Training College in Patan, all closely associated with Ministers in Modi’s cabinet, had committed serial gang rape of so many girl students, forcing them into submission and silence on the threat to fail them in internal assessment. It was the heroic action of one female teacher Bharati Patel and her students that resulted in exposure of the entire scandal. The organised crime had been going on inside the College with knowledge of the concerned authorities, at least since 2000.

It was political patronage for these criminals that made all complaints and protests ineffective and redundant every time. It was only after a huge public protest in Patan on February 4, where people   a twenty five thousand strong crowd   not only came in unison across the party, caste and community identities, but physically assaulted the rapists, so much so that the police had to intervene to save them and only then a case could be registered, which ultimately resulted in conviction of these rapists.

The Primary Teachers’ Certificate (PTC) College of Patan, is run by the State Government through the District Institute of Educational Technology (DIET) and is situated on the outskirts of the city. This college had become a den of criminals under the patronage of Ministers in Modi’s cabinet, especially during the two decades tenure of Anandi Patel as Education Minister. The six teachers, now sentenced to life imprisonment by the Fast Track Court for the offence of gang rape of their own student, Guddi, a poor dalit girl, since long had been indulging in a whole series of gang rape of poor girls, while all complaints made against them were going unheard with the authorities.

The kingpin among those convicted, Atul Patel, the most influential among them, is a local leader of the BJP and very close to Anandi Ben Patel, the present Revenue Minister and former Education Minister. He was in charge of the whole election campaign of the Minister in the 2002 elections, in Patan. This Anandi Ben Patel is known for her closeness with Chief Minister Narendra Modi. It is during her tenure that sexual harassment of female students had become a routine phenomenon in the state. Several direct complaints were made against Atul Patel, but all of them were suppressed by the authorities under political pressure. One may find the extent of political patronage in the fact that this Atul Patel was awarded with the All India Ramanujam Maths club, the best Maths teacher Award, when the BJP was in power at the centre. The shamefaced government had to withdraw the award after Atul Patel was exposed as kingpin in the Patan serial rape case.

The second convicted teacher Manish Parmar, the drawing teacher in the college, is a close relative of the present Education Minister Ramanlal Vora. He is famous for keeping a knife in his pocket on the college campus and the female students were terrified of him. Amazingly, while other teachers in the College were empowered to grade the students between 50-100 marks in internal assessment, Manish Parmar was specially authorised to grade the students of 250 marks. This Manish Parmar used to shortlist 10 girls in every batch, using mobile and video cameras, and a computer to upload their images, keeping the best one for himself. On October 17, 2000 a complaint was filed by a female student against Manish Parmar, but to no avail. Again in 2004 another complaint of sexual molestation was filed by a student Daksha Parmar against Manish, but in vain.

The system of internal marking was so whimsically and intriguingly designed to empower the teachers to exercise arbitrary control over the students by putting 40-44% marks out of the aggregate, at their disposal. This system virtually armed the male teachers with an unguided power to blackmail the poor and innocent female students, forcing them to submit into silence against all harassment and violence. This system of internal marking had come into question about 22 years ago when incidents similar to that in Patan had shaken Meghraj Taluka, where 15 girls were raped by their teachers in the same manner. 15 cases were lodged at that time. Later the cases were suppressed and the girl victims were denied degrees. Again, following a complaint from the PTC college at Rajkot, by a girl student, it was recommended that the system of internal marking be scrapped, but the errant teachers having direct influence inside the Modi cabinet succeeded in having the recommendation shelved off. Despite all complaints and protests and recommendations by different bodies in that regard, this power was not scrapped until the people came out on the streets, took the law into their own hands and beat up the perpetrators of the crime.

Not only the system of internal marking is so designed to put the future of hapless students at the whim of the teachers, but also arrangements were secured for the perpetration of the crime. The errant male teachers, with political patronage, conveniently secured the postings for themselves in women’s colleges. The reply of the Minister Anandi Patel and Ramanlal Vora to this deliberate mischief that there was a dearth of female teachers, is totally misplaced in view of the fact that the existing 70 female teachers appointed in State run colleges were more than sufficient to be posted in 6 girls’ colleges, while 156 male teachers could have been conveniently accommodated in 16 boys colleges. But it was knowingly done otherwise, with the connivance of the authorities and politicians, above all the Education Minister herself. The devils linked to the Modi Government were knowingly given postings in the girls’ colleges, enabling them to exploit the hapless women.

Students have explained how the teachers in the Patan College used to tell the female students to give a smile and apply honey to their lips to get marks. The principal JN Chaudhary himself was part of the entire scandal and deliberately used to visit the hostel in the late hours of the night in the absence of the rector and used to enter the rooms of students to harass them. Complaints were made against him also by the parents of the students, but the warden of the hostel, Jashoda Joshi, hand in glove with these criminals, continued to tell the guardians that it is the girls who were of questionable virtue. This Jashoda Joshi, used to assist the rapists by providing them free access to the girls’ hostel in odd hours of the night and used to pacify the girl victim after they had been raped, advising them not to make a complaint and “to learn to get used to it”. Principal Chaudhary was a Matriculate and did not even qualify for appointment to the office of Principal, but got appointed to the post thanks to his political links with those in power. KT Purania, who took over the office from JN Chaudhary, also had complaints lodged against him of a similar description by female students during his previous tenure at Palanpur College.

Bharati Patel, a female lecturer, who joined the services in 1997, and played a heroic role in defence of poor students in the Patan rape case, had herself made a written complaint way back on February 27, 2001, narrating the details of sexual exploitation of innocent female students in the college. Instead of any action being taken on her complaint, Bharati Patel was transferred to Palanpur, to subject her to hardship, as a measure of punishment for making the complaint, and managed to get transferred back only in 2007. It was Atul Patel, now a convict, who managed to wangle the transfer of Bharati Patel through the Minister Anandi Ben Patel. Bharati was threatened by Atul Patel and his criminal colleagues, but the brave woman refused to relent.

The criminal teachers, enjoying the political patronage of the Modi government, continued with what can be termed as a most heinous crime against humanity. It was reported that these beasts used to decide the question as to who would rape which girl first through a drawing of lots among them. The gang rapes were then photographed on mobile and video cameras, to further blackmail their student victims. After each gang rape they forced a heavy dose of anti-pregnancy pills down the throats of their victims and used to shave the pubic hair of their victims to wash the traces of semen and thus wipe out all evidence of the rape. This all pre-planned, points to the organised nature of the crime perpetrated by hardcore criminals, having no fear of the law.

Although sexual exploitation of female teachers and students is also rampant in private colleges, the government colleges all over Gujarat continue to outshine the private ones in this field, specially during the rule of the BJP in the State. Although the Education Minister, Anandi Patel, continued to say that no such complaint had ever been made to her, it turned out that no less than 28 female students and teachers had made written complaints during her tenure as Education Minster, but with no action being taken.

The present case, in which the six perpetrators of gang rape have been sentenced to serve life imprisonment, is the sordid story of a very bright but poor dalit girl, Guddi, who was gang raped 14 times by these beasts over a period of four and a half months, on the college campus itself and on excursion tours as part of her internship. The scandal of premeditated serial rape was exposed when on January 31 2008 the victim fainted in the prayer hall of the college and was taken to a doctor by her teacher Bharati Patel and her colleagues, who confirmed rape of the girl. 97 other students of the college then came out with their own stories of similar gang rape forced upon them by the same teachers.

Guddi is one of the five children of a daily wage labourer from the Jetalvasana village of Visnagar Taluka in Mehsana district in Gujarat. Without any aid, she had secured 89% marks in matriculation examination and more than 70% in XII standard, on her own efforts made against all odds of life. In order that her studies could continue, her father had to discontinue the studies of her brother. She wished to become a doctor, but because of the poverty in the family, she enrolled herself to become a primary teacher on July 24, 2007 at the Primary Teachers’ Certificate (PTC) College at Patan. The girls’ college is run by the Gujarat Government through the District Institute of Educational Technology (DIET). Her father requested one Prof. Baloch to see if financial aid could be arranged from the college. Baloch, in turn sent the girl to Prof. Ashwin Parmar. On September 11,2007, Ashwin Parmar called the girl to the Educational Technology room, after the recess, where he and two other teachers, Manish Parmar and Mahendra Parjapati, ripped off her clothes before taking turns to rape her. They also made videos of the gang rape and warned her not to disclose it or face the consequences. The traumatised victim thereafter started to faint at the mere sight of these teachers. On September 13, 2007, i.e. two days after the rape, when she fainted in the presence of students, the rapist teachers suggested that the girl was affected by “evil spirits” and themselves took her for witchcraft!

Fifteen days later Manish Parmar called Guddi to the college laboratory, where he was joined by two other teachers, Kiran Patel and Suresh Patel in the gang rape of the poor girl. While Manish and Suresh raped her, Kiran Patel, who raised the plea of impotence in his defence in the trial, continued to sexually abuse the girl and film the act.

On the excursion tour of students, to Khumbhwa Village, as part of her internship, between December 31, 2007 and January 11 2008, Suresh, Manish and Kiran repeated the same act at 8pm on the eve of new year and then at 3.30am in the dead of the night of January 11, after a cultural programme. Later in the month, after gang rape by five of the lecturers, Atul Patel committed repeated rape upon the girl victim. On January 25, this Atul Patel, again raped the victim in the Computer room of the college.

Due to this trauma, the victim continued to lose consciousness repeatedly at the sight of her rapist teachers. On January 30, 2008, the victim disclosed her woes to a friend and then again fainted on the next day in the prayer hall of the college. Bharati Patel took her to a Psychiatrist and then to a Gynaecologist, who confirmed rape. The friend of the victim then disclosed it to Bharati Patel. As the news of gang rape of students by the teachers in the college spread, shocked and enraged parents and guardians rushed to the college where 97 other female students, who were also subjected to gang rape by these teachers, also came out with similar complaints. A written complaint was thus made on January 31 on behalf of the 98 students victims of gang rape, molestation, outraging of modesty and criminal intimidation, etc. But because of the political influence of the culprits no action was taken against them by the authorities.

On February 4, 2008, students and their parents decided to take the matter into their own hands. They organised a demonstration and during that protest caught hold of the rapist teachers and beat them severely with sticks and brickbats and damaged their vehicles. It was now that the police swung into action to save the culprits from the wrath of the enraged public, which was calling for the lynching of the rapists.

On February 5, a spontaneous protest broke out in support of the victims, the female students, and against the rapists. A 25,000-strong crowd was on the roads, cutting across the party lines and caste and communal identities, in protest against the ghastly crime and the political patronage of the ruling BJP. Only the local leaders of Sangh Parivar had remained absent. They however failed to prevent their cadres from joining the mass protest. To pacify the angry crowd, the police however had to arrest the rapists and register a case u/s 376 and 506 of IPC, on the statement of victim Guddi. The rapist teachers were then brought before the Judicial Magistrate, who remanded them into police custody. The victim was however made to wait for more than six hours in the civil hospital before her medical examination could be conducted. Taking precautions, Bharati Patel, however, got the statement of the victim recorded before the Judicial Magistrate u/s 164 Cr.P.C. on 7 February 7.

Seeing the situation slipping out of their hands, the high-ups in the Modi government decided on a further damage control exercise. Apprehensive of the police inquiry going much beyond its apparent frame, exposing those sitting at the top of the BJP government, Narendra Modi, appointed four police officers to ensure that the inquiry in the case would remain confined only to the role of those named by the students. Hastily a magisterial inquiry was also ordered, but deliberately without any terms of reference.

On February 23, Jamna Taral, a handmaiden of the BJP was appointed as Principal of the college. Her husband was placed as the District Education Officer in Patan. His car had been impounded by the Election Commission during the 2002 elections for being misused in the election campaign of the BJP. Taral immediately started to intimidate the students and their parents to keep their hands off the case, and started harassing and defaming the student victims themselves. She threatened the students with failure in marking if they went against the culprits in the case.

While the students continued to boycott the college, the parents formed an Association to fight the injustice. Fifteen representatives of the Association, led by its president Ghemar Chaudhary, a school teacher in the city, accompanied by father of the dalit girl victim, came to Gandhinagar to meet Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister, where the inaugural session of the Legislative Assembly was in the offing. However, Narendra Modi refused to meet the delegation. Instead the delegation was routed to Education Minister Ramanlal Vora, who redirected them to the Minister of State for health and family welfare, Parbat Patel, only to be warned by the Minister against creating any trouble during the session of Assembly. They were also told to withdraw the agitation against the government. The Personal Assistant to Education Minster downplayed the incident saying “it goes on”.

Later they were told the same thing by Amit Shah, Minister of Home and Rishikesh Patel, MLA from Visnagar Taluka. None of the Ministers however exchanged a word with the father of the girl victim. Rather, Ghemar Chaudhary, the president was threatened in private of dire consequences by Amit Shah and Ramanlal Vora.

The delegation, however, submitted its complaint to the GCERT. As soon as they came out of the office of the GCERT, the delegation was surrounded by police and was taken to the Arbuda Hotel in Gojharia, to be produced before Shankar Chaudhary, MLA from Radhanpur and the BJP State Secretary from Patan, K.C. Patel. First they tried to play the caste card demanding to know how Patels and Chaudharys had joined hands with dalits. Failing this they directly threatened the delegation to withdraw their agitation.

Ghemar Chaudhary had since received a “show cause notice” for unauthorised absence from the school, while Kirit Patel ,another member of the delegation, and a lecturer at Law College Patan and member of the Senate of North Gujarat University, has received threats from the authorities. However, the culprits were neither dismissed from services nor were their degrees cancelled.

Terrified of the ire of people, the leaders of Sangh Parivar, the RSS and BJP stopped appearing in public. The state president of the BJP issued open directive to the cadres of the BJP not to support any agitation against the rapist teachers. Unable to stop the mass protests, they started to malign the protesters as anti-BJP and anti-Modi and blamed the girl victims themselves for their woes.

Failing this, the patrons of the ghastly crime then started to publicise the videos of gang rape of the girl through MMS on mobiles, to demoralise the victim. But even this could not break the resolve of the brave victim. Repelling all pressures she courageously deposed against the accused in the trial which ultimately led to the sentencing of the guilty to life imprisonment. The conviction of the guilty is said to have been founded upon consistent testimony of the victim prosecutrix, fully corroborated by forensic evidence in the form of traces of semen of the rapists from the different spots pointed out by the victim in her statement to the police and before the Court. The people thus could identify the real face of the “moral police of saffrons”, repenting to bring these patrons of criminals and gangsters to power in the state.

The elite classes always oppose publicising such events in the media, as it invites public fury against their rule at large and exposes the regime of capital as a whole. Media reports of the Patan gang rape case, however, supported the mass agitation and helped a lot in spreading the news about the crime and public protest against it. Media support for the protest helped other victims come out into the open and support the agitation. It exposed a lot the role of the “saffrons”, those moral policemen, in perpetration of the crime.

On Februray 11, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to the Gujarat Government. The State Commission was still not constituted in the state. On February 14, several voluntary organisations and individuals joined hands in Ahmedabad to form a “Citizens Forum” against the Patan Gang Rape. The Forum decided to commemorate the Women’s Day on March 8 every year as “Patan Day”. The team of NCW which visited Gujarat, confirmed that the incident was not an isolated one and that there were many Patans in Gujarat.

In fact, not only students but also female teachers in the PTCs are also being subjected to such exploitation at the hands of those connected to power. If the situation in government colleges is so horrible, one can imagine what the state of affairs in private colleges must be. The PTCs have mushroomed in the state as a source of generation of huge profits out of the heavy fee extracted from poor students who want to become teachers, after the National Council for Teachers Education (NCTE) introduced the concept of self financing institutes.

More than 450 PTCs exist in Gujarat today, most of which are self-financing, with about 3000 paid seats reserved in the management quota. Out of these, about 140 are girls’ colleges where around 20,000 girls are enrolled. It is compulsory for the girls to stay in the hostels, while most of these hostels have no female wardens. No financial assistance or scholarships exist in these colleges. One can imagine what sort of training these future teachers get in these slaughterhouses. Shirking its responsibility of preparing teachers in the state, and deliberately leaving the field open for profiteers, the state government runs only 16 colleges through the DIET in the entire state of which one is in Patan.

It is simply a well orchestrated rumour that women have become safer under BJP rule, while in reality the situation has become much worse under their rule, with the imposed silence upon women in the docile society of Gujarat, linked to family honour, coupled with the rule of the conservative BJP, forces the women to keep quiet and bear the tyranny. The rule of fascist elements does not improve the conditions of women in a capitalist society, but only makes this exploitation of women more unbearable and suffocating, by choking and silencing any resistance against this exploitation.

Capitalism has made a virtual mockery of mass education. The whole system of education under capitalism has become merely a trade shop for sale of certificates, degrees and diplomas, making them a precondition for employment and thus sustenance of life. Capitalists, who own private institutions and those holding governmental power, exploit this situation of the mass of the people. Education is institutionalised into a commodity in the market, controlled by the capitalists, bureaucrats and politicians, who emerge as an organised education mafia. They rob people not only of money for obtaining the degrees and diploma, but also exploit the women sexually, who are vulnerable to it. Not only students but even teachers fall prey to it. Capitalism constitutes a hell for working people. Only socialism can guarantee a dignified life for billions of working people and for that the yoke of the rule of the capitalists has to be removed.