Parents in India demand safer schools after rape of 6-year-old, allegedly by instructor


Indian police officers stand guard as an activist of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, or All Indian Student Council, shouts slogans during a protest against the rape of a six-year-old student, in Bangalore, India, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (Aijaz Rahi/AP)

Three weeks after the rape of a 6-year-old student in southern India, allegedly by her skating instructor, police arrested the chairman of her school Wednesday amid growing protests over lax security for children in schools.

In the past week, thousands of parents in Bangalore have demanded that police not only make arrests in the case but also punish the management of the upscale school for putting their children in harm’s way. The privately run school — with its attractive sports, gym and performing arts facilities — is a favorite among the booming IT city’s business families and upwardly mobile professionals.

Analysts say the incident has also highlighted the problem of ill-governed, profit-chasing private schools mushrooming across India with little government scrutiny.

The first-grade student was allegedly assaulted inside the gymnastic room during school hours on July 2, police said. But her parents found out about it only days later and filed a police complaint July 14.

MN Reddy, Bangalore’s police chief, said Wednesday that Rustom Kerawalla, the chairman of Vibgyor High, has been arrested on suspicion of delaying the reporting of the incident, failing to protect children under his care and destroying evidence.

Public anger over an alarming rise in sexual assaults on women has been growing in India since the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in 2012 in New Delhi. More than 12,000 cases of minors being raped were reported last year, a jump of 50 percent over the previous year.

An online petition by a parent in Bangalore asking the government to impose mandatory security measures at all schools has received about 150,000 signatures as of Wednesday evening from all over India.

On Sunday, police arrested the 30-year-old roller-skating instructor — identified as Mustafa — in the 6-year-old’s rape. They said they found downloaded pornographic videos featuring children on his laptop.

“The title of one video itself is shocking: ‘The rape of a child in school.’ This shows his state of mind,” Raghavendra Auradkar, a senior police officer, told television reporters.

Officials at Mustafa’s previous employer, Deen’s Academy, said Tuesday that they had fired him in 2011 on suspicion of touching students inappropriately.

Parents in Bangalore are demanding that schools perform background checks of employees, install surveillance cameras in every building and conduct awareness sessions for students about “good touch and bad touch.”

“Even if my 13-year-old daughter knows about good touch/bad touch, does a little girl really stand a chance to protect herself against an adult man?” said Chandrima Dutta, the mother of an eighth-grade student in the school where the incident allegedly occurred. “We must focus on prevention.”

The school has been closed since Thursday.

“My daughter is very confused about all this,” Dutta, 40, said. “She loves her school. She asks me, ‘How can a teacher do such a bad thing?’ Children trust their teachers. School is supposed to be a happy, safe place for young ones.”

Rama Lakshmi has been with The Post's India bureau since 1990. She is a staff writer and India social media editor for Post World.
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