Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Six Sentenced to Life by Fast Track Court in Patan Serial Gang Rapes: Convicts having Close links to Modi Cabinet

-Rajesh Tyagi/ 9 March 2009

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

After gang rapes of several muslim women, including mass rape of Bilkis Bano as part of 2002 Godhra genocide, the saffron brigades of Narendra Modi turned to poor hindu girls committing gang rapes 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 none but 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.

Patan serial gang rape case shook the conscience of civilised society, when on the heels of electoral victory of BJP in Gujarat, i.e. only two months after December 2007 elections were over, it was revealed that at least six teachers of the Women Teachers Training College in Patan, all closely associated with Ministers in Modi’s cabinet, had committed serial gang rapes of so many girl students, forcing them into submission and silence on the threat to fail them in internal assessment. It was heroic action of one lady teacher Bharati Patel and her students which 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 4th February, where people, a twenty five thousand strong mob, not only came in unison across the party, caste and community identities, but physically assaulted the rapists, 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 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 rapes of poor girls, while all complaints made against them were going unheard with the authorities.

The kingpin among those convicted, Atul Patel, most influential among all, is local leader of 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 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 routine phenomenon in the state. Several direct complaints were made against Atul Patel, but all of them were suppressed by the authorities under political pressures. One may find the extent of political patronage in the fact that this Atul Patel was awarded with All India Ramanujam Maths club, best Math teacher Award, when BJP was in power at the centre. Shamefaced government had to withdraw the award after Atul Patel was exposed as kingpin in Patan serial rape case.

The second convict teacher Manish Parmar, the drawing teacher in the college, is close relative of present Education Minister Ramanlal Vora. He is famous for keeping a knife in his pocket in college campus and the female students were terrified of him. Amazingly, while other teachers in 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 the 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 victim girls were denied degrees. Again, following a complaint from PTC college at Rajkot, by a girl student, it was recommended that the system of internal marking be scrapped off, but the errant teachers having direct influence inside 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 roads, took law into their own hands and beat up the perpetrators of crime.

Not only the system of internal marking is so designed to put the future of hapless students at the whims of the teachers, but also arrangements were secured for perpetration of crime. The errant male teachers, with political patronage, conveniently secured the postings for them in women colleges. The reply of the Minister Anandi Patel and Ramanlal Vora to this deliberate mischief that there was 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 connivance of authorities and politicians, above all the Education Minister herself. The devils linked to Modi Government, were knowingly given postings in the girls colleges, enabling them to exploit the hapless women.

Students told that the teachers in Patan college used to tell the female students to give smile and get marks and apply honey to their lips. The principal JN Chaudhary himself was part of entire scandal and deliberately used to visit the hostel in late hours of night in 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 students, but the warden of the hostel, Jashoda Joshi, hand in gloves with these criminals, continued to tell the guardians that it is the girls who were of questionable virtues. This Jashoda Joshi, used to assist the rapists by providing free access to them to girls hostel in odd hours of night and used to pacify the victim girls after rapes, advising them not to make 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, for his political links with those in power. KT Purania, who took over the office from JN Chaudhary, also had complaints lodged against him of 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 Patan Rape case, has herself made a written complaint way back in February 27, 2001, narrating the details of sexual exploitation of innocent female students in the college. Instead of an action on her complaint, Bharati Patel was transferred to Palanpur, to subject her to hardships, as measure of punishment for making complaint, and could get transferred back only in 2007. It was Atul Patel, now convict, who had got 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 political patronage of Modi Government, continued with what can be termed as 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 draw of lots among them. The gang rapes were then photographed on mobile and video cameras, to further blackmail their victim students. After each gang-rape they forced 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-plan, points to the organised nature of crime perpetrated by hardcore criminals, having no fear of law.

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

The instant case, in which the six perpetrators of gang rapes 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 4½ months, on college campus itself and on excursion tours as part of internship. The scandal of premeditated serial rapes was exposed when on 31 January 2008 the victim fainted in the prayer hall of the college and was taken to 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 rapes, forced upon them by the same teachers.

Guddi is one of the five children of a daily wage labourer from 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 may continue, her father had to discontinue the studies of her brother. She wished to become a doctor, but for poverty in the family, enrolled herself to become a primary teacher on July 24, 2007 at 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 can be arranged from the college. Baloch, in turn sent the girl to Prof. Ashwin Parmar. On Sept 11,2007, Ashwin Parmar called the girl to 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 video of the gang rape and warned her not to disclose it or face the consequences. The traumatised victim, thereafter, started to faint at mere sight of these teachers. On September 13, 2007, i.e. two days after the rape, when she fainted in 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 college laboratory, where he was joined by two other teachers Kiran Patel and Suresh Patel in the gang rape of 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 internship, between 31 December 2007 and 11 Jan 2008, Suresh, Manish and Kiran repeated the same act at 8 p.m. on the eve of new year and then at 3.30 in the dead of the night of 11 January, after a cultural programme. Later in the month, after gang rapes by five of the lecturers, Atul Patel committed repeated rape upon the victim girl. On January 25, this Atul Patel, again raped the victim in Computer room of the college.

Due to this trauma, the victim continued to lose her 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 Gynaecologist, who confirmed rape. The friend of the victim then disclosed it to Bharati Patel. As the news of gang rape of student 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 rapes by these teachers, also came out with similar complaints. A written complaint was thus made on January 31 on behalf of the 98 students of gang rapes, molestations, outraging of modesty and criminal intimidations etc. But because of political influence of the culprits no action was taken on them by the authorities.

On 4 February 2008, students and their parents decided to take the matter into their own hands. They organised a demonstration and during that caught hold of the rapist teachers and beat them up 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 public, which shouted for lynching of rapists.

On 5 February, a spontaneous protest broke out in support of victim female students and against the rapists. 25,000 strong mob was on the roads, cutting across the party lines and caste and communal identities, in protest against the ghastly crime and the political patronage to it by ruling BJP. Only the local leaders of sangh parivar had remained absent. They however failed to prevent their cadres to join the mass protest. To pacify the angry mob, 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 produced before Judicial Magistrate, who remanded them to 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 precaution, Bharati Patel however got the statement of victim recorded before the judicial magistrate u/s 164 Cr.P.C. on 7 February.

Seeing the situation slipping out of hands, high ups in Modi Government took to further damage control exercise. Apprehensive of the police inquiry going much beyond its apparent frame, exposing those sitting on high echelons in BJP government, Narendra Modi, appointed four police officers to ensure that the inquiry in the case remains 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 23 February, Jamna Taral, a handmade of BJP was appointed as Principal of the college. Her husband is placed as District Education Officer, Patan, whose car was impounded by Election Commission during 2002 elections for being misused in election campaign of BJP. Taral immediately started to intimidate the students and their parents to keep their hands off the case, and started harassing and defaming the victim students themselves. She threatened the students of failure in marking if they go against the culprits in the case.

While students continued to boycott the college, the parents formed an Association to fight out 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 victim girl, 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 Minsters however exchanged a word with father of the victim girl. Rather, Ghemar Chaudhary, the president was threatened in private of 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 GCERT, the delegation was surrounded by police and was taken to 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 asking that how Patels and Chaudharys have joined hands with dalits. Failing this they directly threatened the delegation to withdraw agitation.

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

Terrified of the ire of people, the leaders of sangh parivar-the RSS and BJP stopped to appear before public. The State president of BJP issued open directive to the cadres of 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 victim girls themselves for their woes. Failing this, the patrons of 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 brave victim. Repelling all pressures she courageously deposed against the accused in the trial which ultimately led to sentencing of the guilty for imprisonment for life. 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 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 moral police of saffrons, repenting to bring these patrons of criminals and gangsters to power in the state.

The elite classes always oppose publicising the events in media, as it invites public fury against their rule at large and exposes the regime of capital as a whole. Media reports in 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 in open and support the agitation. It exposed a lot the role of saffrons, those moral policemen, in perpetration of the crime.

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

In fact, not only students but 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 should be the state of affairs in private colleges. 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 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 hostels, while most of these hostels have no female wardens. No financial assistance or scholarships exist in these colleges. One can assess what sort of training these future teachers would get in these slaughter houses. Shirking its responsibility of preparing teachers in the state, and deliberately leave the field open for profiteers, the state government runs only 16 colleges through DIET in the entire state of which one is in Patan.

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

Capitalism has made 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 people. Education is institutionalised into a commodity in the market, controlled by the capitalists, bureaucrats and politicians, who emerge into 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 fell prey to it. Capitalism constitutes a hell for working people. Only socialism would guarantee a dignified life for billions of working masses and for that the yoke of the rule of Capitalists has to be overthrown.

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