By P. V. Swati:
In a shocking incident, two teenage Dalit girls were stripped and frisked by female invigilators, in front of 40 students, including several boys during a class X State Board examination in Madhya Pradesh’s Narsinghpur district on March 15th.
The incident occurred at the government higher secondary school in Barhebara village of Narsinghpur district. The two 15 year old girls were made to undergo the humiliation by two female invigilators during an anti-cheating inspection. Invigilators Preeti Sharma and Reshma Semaiya, acting on the suspicion that the girls were hiding scraps of paper to cheat on their mathematics exam, asked them to strip. When the girls refused, the two invigilators stripped the two girls themselves, as 40 boys and some girl students watched. However, they found nothing on the girls to prove they had intended to cheat.
Out of shame, the girls did not inform anyone about the incident until 23rd March, Friday, when they broke down before their parents, who in turn complained to the district administration. Though the district collector Sanjeev Singh, has initiated a probe, no action has been taken yet.
The incident is not just an irrational way of countering instances of cheating, but reflects an unacceptable way in which students belonging to the lower caste communities are viewed in school systems which are supposed to profess values like equality and respect. Out of some 50 student the invigilators happened to pick only these two Dalit girls out of their apparent suspicion. It was not just an unfortunate turn of events that led to the victimisation off these young girls, but it is rather the deeply entrenched attitude of hatred and discrimination towards Dalit students still prevailing in many parts of the country.
Apart from the harassment they faced on the basis of their caste status, these two young girls were also devoid of any control or agency to protect their body. The invigilators in their supposed search of answer chits shamelessly undressed the two female students in front of a room full of young boys. The young girls were not only humiliated by the false blame placed on them, but their modesty was violated without any thought. The two Dalit girls were put through such an extent if mental trauma that they could hardly report the incident to their familial guardians.
Even now that the case has come into the lime light, there has hardly been any action taken against the two lady invigilators who committed the offense. The incident clearly reflects how the social baggage of caste and gender has victimised these two girls. The tardy effort to punish the responsible individuals just further reaffirms the negligent institutional attitude in seeking justice for the marginalized groups of our society.