The day started off like any other for 18-year-old Shruti*, a few weeks back. The II PUC student got ready and went to college for special classes that her principal, Parameshwarappa, had informed her about. Once she reached the college though, Shruti’s world turned upside down.
She was allegedly sexually assaulted by her principal, threatened not to reveal the incident to anyone, attempted suicide, and is now finally on the path to getting some justice.
On November 2, when Shruti reached her college, she noticed something strange: Except for a few school children practicing sports and another girl practicing for a dance competition, there was not a single student in any of the classrooms.
She then stepped into her classroom to find that the principal – who was also her mathematics teacher – was sitting alone in the classroom.
“When I asked him where the other students were, he said that they were coming in a while. I did not expect anything to go wrong. I just sat down and began solving some problems. That’s when Parameshwarappa came up to me and told me to remove my sweater. He said that I would become too cozy and fall asleep,” Shruti says.
Meanwhile, Parameshwarappa locked the door to the classroom.
“When I asked him why he was closing the door, he came up to me, ripped off my dupatta and grabbed my arm,” Shruti says.
“I tried to pull away, but he grabbed both my hands and twisted it behind my back. It hurt so badly, I thought my hands would break. He misbehaved with me in a way that I cannot describe. I find it hard to talk about it,” the young woman says, as she breaks down.
“We heard a knock on the door after a while. He immediately let go of me and opened the door. Our physics professor was at the door. He changed the topic and asked me to tell him a formula. I was shocked,” Shruti adds.
Parameshwarappa went outside the classroom after assaulting her, and Shruti packed up her books and rushed home.
The incident happened on November 2 in Chikkamagaluru, and what followed has left the 18-year-old traumatised.
The next day, principal Parameshwarappa allegedly threatened to fail her in the internal examination if she spoke of the incident with anyone.
“I was scared to tell my mother. She is a single parent and is very sick so I did not want her to worry,” Shruti says.
“The principal was always reassuring my mother that he would teach me well. He said that he understood the situation my family was in as my father passed away a few years ago and my mother is struggling financially. He said that I was like his daughter and that he would help me with my studies. I never expected him to do this to me,” Shruti says.
The suicide attempt
Feeling cornered and helpless, Shruti decided to end her life. When she was attempting to hang herself, her mother rushed into her room and stopped her from taking the drastic step. Shruti then told her mother about the incident.
“A day after I told my mother, we decided to tell the school management about the incident. There were three local journalists who told us that they would help us. We went to speak to the college director and after the talks, it was decided that Parameshwarappa would be removed from the college,” Shruti says.
The next day, Shruti was shocked to see that Parameshwarappa was still in college and that the management had reneged on its promise.
“That’s when I decided to take up the issue with the police. I had heard that SP Annamalai had helped a lot of people so I called him up directly,” Shruti says.
On December 29, Shruti lodged a complaint with SP Annamalai. On December 31, Parameshwarappa was arrested and booked under IPC sections 345A (sexual harassment), 376 (rape), 511 and 506 of the IPC.
Two days later, after conducting a preliminary probe, it was revealed that Parameshwarappa had paid off the three journalists – Gopal Bandari with Hello Chikkamagaluru, Srinivas Murthy with Ashok TV and Srinivas Upadhyay of Kranti Maruta – with a sum of Rs 1.3 lakh to stop them from reporting the incident.
“On January 2, the three journalists were arrested and sent to judicial custody after being booked under sections 384, 506 and 34 of the IPC. All the accused are currently in judicial custody,” SP Annamalai told TNM.
No sexual harassment committee
SP Annamalai says that the college management had not even set up a sexual harassment committee for students to report such incidents.
The SP says that such incidents are rampant in schools across the region and that the district police are working on a new beat system to ensure that cases do not go unreported as they often do.
“It is our suspicion that such incidents are happening a lot. We have assigned one beat area to each constable attached to the various police stations spread across the district. We are working with a Bengaluru-based company which is developing an app which can map the schools and colleges located in every beat area,” SP Annamalai said.
According to the new plan, a team of one male and one female constable will visit assigned schools and colleges twice a week, and speak to the students about any violence that they face.
“If there is police presence and if the students feel confident that the police will help them in time of need, they will come forward and report the incident. Police presence will also ensure that perpetrators of such crimes will be warned and the occurrence of such instances may come down. This is just an attempt to keep the students safe,” SP Annamalai added.
If you would like to contact authorities who can help in Karnataka:
State Women’s helpline: 1091
Vanitha Sahayavani: 080 22943225
Bangalore women’s police cell: 0821 2418400
You can find more emergency contacts here.
*Name changed to protect identity.