Trigger warning: Rape, sexual assault
The distraught parents of a four-year-old who was allegedly raped by the driver of her school principal in Hyderabad have been protesting for two days demanding answers from school authorities. “Why was a personal driver of the principal allowed inside the school with no questions asked? How did none of the teachers or principal intervene when he was with students alone?” the child’s mother wants to know. Several parents whose children go to the private school in Banjara Hills, an upscale neighbourhood in Hyderabad, have also expressed their disbelief and accused the school authorities of negligence. The accused, Rajani Kumar, was an employee of the school principal, Madhavi.
According to the mother, the child had been in pain and distress for nearly two months and had finally opened up to her on Tuesday, October 18. “She has been crying every day for two months but didn't say much. She has been complaining of pain,” the mother told reporters on Wednesday. “Yesterday, when I coaxed her a bit more, she finally spoke about it. She identified the driver immediately when we arrived at the school,” the mother added.
The driver Rajani Kumar allegedly raped the child in a digital classroom in the school over the past two to three months. A police officer had earlier told TNM that Rajani had access to the classroom as he would often handle the equipment and play cartoons for kindergarteners. The child’s parents have raised questions about the driver’s unchecked access to the school premises when he wasn’t an employee of the school.
“The principal’s driver should have stayed outside, why did he come inside the school? Why did he take a student inside the classroom?” the mother asked, questioning how the principal and all the teachers in the school let this happen for months without intervening. According to the mother, the child said the driver would lock the classroom door and sexually assault her.
The child’s parents are also deeply upset with the lack of support from school authorities since the incident was reported on Tuesday. “We told the principal what our daughter told us, but she didn't say anything,” the mother said. “We have lost trust in this school. We cannot send our kids to a school with such a principal, she must be sacked,” she added. With the school already declaring holidays for the next eight days for Deepavali, there is scepticism that the management is evading accountability and avoiding difficult questions from parents.
Other parents who joined the protest have also expressed fear for their children’s well-being. "Our primary concern is the safety of our children. How did a person who is not an employee of the school enjoy the privilege of roaming the school campus and also monitor students? Our children have told us that whenever there's a shortage of staff, the accused sometimes would monitor the class. How did the management allow this?” asked Bhaskar, a parent. "So far the school management has not taken us into confidence. They should be the ones fighting on our behalf. They instead have abandoned us and alienated us," said another parent Jhansi.
On Tuesday, the parents reached the school, where videos showed them beating up the driver, and demanding accountability from the principal. Protests continued on Tuesday and Wednesday, demanding stern action against the driver and the school authorities. Banjara Hills police have registered a case against the driver under Section 376AB (punishment for rape on woman under twelve years of age) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 6 (punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault) read with 5(m) (whoever commits penetrative sexual assault on a child below twelve years) of the POCSO Act. The principal Madhavi has also been booked under Section 21 (punishment for failure to report or record a case) of the POCSO Act.
The driver has been arrested and sent to judicial remand, while the victim was sent for medical examination and handed over to her parents. Police said they will also arrest the principal on Wednesday, who was absconding.