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Unrest over alleged rapes at Banasthali Vidyapith

Special Correspondent
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Two arrested; three cases registered; inquiries by National Commission for Women & State Human Rights Commission

Female students of Banasthali Vidyapith protesting against university officials and staff at Navai near Jaipur on Thursday night after the alleged rapes.— Photo: PTI
Female students of Banasthali Vidyapith protesting against university officials and staff at Navai near Jaipur on Thursday night after the alleged rapes.— Photo: PTI

Unrest continued on the campus of Banasthali Vidyapith, Rajasthan’s premier institution for girls’ education in Niwai tehsil of Tonk district, for the second day on Friday over alleged rape of two girl students.

The campus of the residential institution with deemed university status had witnessed protests from hundreds of agitated students the previous day over the alleged rapes even as the varsity administration denied any such incident.

Though confusion over the veracity of the incidents persisted in the absence of any written complaint from anyone, the police on Friday arrested two persons in connection with the developments and registered three cases — including one of rape against unidentified persons. One of the arrested is the ambulance driver of the institution, while other is the female warden of one of the hostels. The charge against the warden is illegal confinement of one victim during the previous night.

The main campus of Banasthali Vidyapith, situated 72 km from here and spread over 850 acres, witnessed dramatic scenes as authorities closed the main gates keeping the inmates of the hostels inside while barring journalists and parents from entering. The developments found their echo in the State capital when the girls of University Maharani’s College took to the streets and students protested in front of the Rajasthan University main gate.

The National Commission for Women (NCW), the Rajasthan State Commission for Women and the Rajasthan Human Rights Commission have announced separate inquiries into the incident. The NCW inquiry will be headed by member Hemlatha Kheria.

“The inquiry committee shall inquire into the circumstances leading to the incident and the action taken by the authorities. The committee shall meet the officers concerned, the victims and other persons as it deems proper to ascertain the facts and circumstance,” said a statement from the NCW.

The simmering campus was visited during the day by District Collector Muktanand Agarwal, Superintendent of Police S. Parimala, and Rajasthan Commission for Women chairperson Ladkumari Jain among others. The confusion was confounded by differing statements from the students — who now are divided into two groups; one agitating over the alleged rape and the other supporting the management version that nothing has happened and it is all a concocted story — who sat on dharna in two different groups.

The previous day, 10 students of the Vidyapith had in a written statement handed over to the local media alleged gang-rape of two students. Vidyapith Vice-Chancellor Aditya Shastri termed the charges “baseless”.

“Something has definitely happened,” was the cryptic reply of Dr. Jain when The Hindu contacted her on her return here from Banasthali Vidyapith on Friday evening.

“The victim has not confirmed it, but I feel she is under severe stress,” she added.

The State Women’s Commission inquiry will be headed by Pawan Surana, its former chairperson. The members include Asha Kaushik, Rupa Tiwari and human rights judge Mahendra Sharma. The inquiry will be completed in 10 days. “There are three-four other complaints about the Vidyapith, which will also come under the inquiry committee’s scanner,” Dr. Jain informed.

The inquiry panel instituted by the Rajasthan Human Rights Commission will be headed by Inspector-General of Police (Ajmer Range) Anil Paliwal.

“If the Vidyapith authorities are found trying to suppress information, strong action would be taken,” said Commission member M.K. Devarajan.

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