Rights commission orders relief for girls given ‘strip’ punishment

The incident occurred on November 23, 2017

Guwahati: The National Human Rights Commission has asked the Arunachal Pradesh government to pay monetary relief to 88 students who were forced to strip for “disrespecting” their headmaster last year.

“The report from the state government indicates that the state authorities have failed to protect the right to dignity of the girls for which vicariously they are liable,” the commission said in its July 3 order.

While observing that criminal proceedings were initiated against the guilty teachers, the commission wants the northeastern Indian state government to pay 5,000 rupees to each student as monetary relief.

Police have arrested three teachers of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGVB) in Papum Pare district in this connection. The place is some 20 km northeast of Itanagar, the state capital.

Although all three got bail, two were removed from service by the education department following an inquiry while another was suspended. A case was registered for disrobing or compelling to undress under the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

The girls, sixth and seventh graders, were forced to remove their clothes in front of the entire school as “punishment” when none owned up “vulgar words” written against the headmaster and another student on a piece of paper on November 23, 2017.

The state government informed the NHRC that the 88 girls were provided counseling.

“The reports received from the state government confirmed the incident and informed that the act of three teachers had been found inhumane and cruel. Their action on minor girl students was against basic human dignity and decency,” an NHRC statement said.

The NHRC had registered suo motu cognizance of media reports on the incident. In its notice to Arunachal Pradesh chief secretary and the secretary, federal ministry of human resource development, it had observed that the “sordid act” of the schoolteachers was inexcusable.

“Teachers are always highly respected in society as they play the role of a true guide and protector for their students. Such an inhuman and insensible act cannot be expected from them. Stripping minor girls in front of the entire school is an unethical and cruel act committed by the teachers who were their lawful custodians and protectors at that time,” it said.

The state government has also served a show-cause notice to the chairperson of Arunachal Farmers’ Development Society, Sagalee, which runs the school, on why the memorandum of understanding signed between the society and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Rajya Mission, Itanagar, should not be terminated. It also directed replacement of all male headmasters and teachers engaged in all KGBVs.

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