Panaji: A seven-year-old girl who was raped and
found shivering in a school toilet earlier this week is slowly
becoming to Goa what the story of the New Delhi gang-rape victim
has come to mean to India.
The Class 2 student's brutal rape, attempts made by the school
personnel to allegedly cover up the crime, alarmingly inconsistent
portraits of the suspects and a cocky political leadership have
only added momentum to a small, but potentially significant wave
of protests demanding the arrest of her rapist, who is still at
The ghastly rape has also opened up the debate of children's
safety in Goa, even forcing the state education ministry and
concerned parents to take steps to beef up the vigil against
pervert lurkers on school campuses.
Ethel D'Costa, a mother of two young girls, who also heads a FM
radio station in Goa, is shocked by what has transpired at the
school in Vasco on Monday.
"Making a child vulnerable at school is the worst situation to
have for the student and the parents. Which horrible person does
that to a child? Even animals show care and compassion to their
little ones," she said.
She is now trying to anchor an initiative for change which
envisages school administrations, PTAs and managements to work
together as a team to ensure the mental, physical and
psychological care of students.
"We need to act. We need to enforce laws and rape should attract
the strictest law possible," she said - a not too faint reminder
of the earnest cries following the gang-rape of a 23-year-old
physiotherapy student which emotionally echoed across a country
angered by the brutality of the incident.
The Goa minor's rape and what subsequently followed also have the
potential to reach out to a similar consciousness.
See if this shocks you:
On Monday, an unknown man enters a school premises, lures the girl
to a toilet, claiming he is a policeman and rapes her. School
personnel find the minor trembling in the toilet after the
horrific tragedy and inform the headmistress.
The girl's parents have alleged that the school management had
tried to cover up the incident by bathing the victim and cleaning
the toilet where the rape occurred.
"This was done before police were informed about the incident,"
the father told the police, even as the headmistress was arrested
and suspended by the management. The father has also alleged a
delay of four hours since the girl informed the school about what
happened and the formal intimation to the police.
Hundreds of residents had virtually besieged the school demanding
justice, which even forced Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to rush
to the scene to pacify the agitators.
The two police sketches of the accused, who has absconded and has
not been traced, show distinctly different profiles with
mismatches ranging from thick earrings and a goatee in one sketch
and a virtually featureless image in the other.
The incident raises questions about Parrikar's trumpeting after
the New Delhi gang-rape, that such incidents could not happen in
Goa because there was "zero tolerance" to offences against women
in his state.
Then, three days after the schoolgirl's rape, the police were
found dealing with another sex crime after a 19-year-old girl was
found raped and stripped, with her head smashed beyond recognition
in the forests of Assagao, 20 km from here.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at email@example.com)