After hostel warden complained that menstruating girls had entered kitchen, ventured near temple and touched fellow hostellers, college principal forced hostellers to parade through college into washroom
Kulsum Yusuf in Bhuj
At an education institute that proclaims its mission to be “self-development and empowerment of girls through modern, scientific, and value-based education”, 68 undergraduate hostellers were paraded through the college into the restroom and forced to individually remove their undergarments to prove that they were not menstruating. This horrifying incident allegedly took place at Shri Sahjanand Girls’ Institute (SSGI) in Bhuj after the hostel rector complained to the principal that some of the inmates had been violating their religious norms specifically for menstruating females.
No police complaint has been registered yet but incharge vice-chancellor of Krantiguru Shyamji Krishna Verma Kutch University has formed a committee to investigate the matter.
Run by followers of Swaminarayan Mandir in Bhuj (Nar Narayan Dev Gadi), the college was set up in 2012 but moved into a new building on the premises of Shree Swaminarayan Kanya Mandir in 2014. The college which offers BCom, BA and BSc courses has about 1,500 students of which 68, who come from remote villages, stay in the hostel on campus.
According to the sect’s norms, menstruating females are barred from entering the temple and kitchen. They are even forbidden from touching other students. However, the hostel administration reportedly complained to principal Rita Raninga that some girls who were having their periods not just mingled with other hostel inmates, but also entered the kitchen and ventured near the temple on the premises.
Durga*, one of the students who stay at the hostel as she comes from a remote village, said, “The hostel administration levelled this allegation and insulted us on Wednesday. On Thursday, when we were attending lectures, rector Anjaliben called the principal and complained about this. We were forced to leave our classrooms and queue up outside in the passage. The principal abused and insulted us, asking which of us were having our periods. Two of us who were menstruating stepped aside. Despite this, we were all taken to the washroom. There, female teachers asked us to individually remove our undergarments so they could check if we were menstruating.”
Shakti*, another 19-year-old undergraduate, said, “We come from farflung villages. The college campus houses a school that runs classes from Class 1 to 12. They provide hostel facilities to the school students. The college does not have its own hostel. We live with the schoolkids in their hostel.”
She added, “The principal, hostel rector and the trustees harass us regularly over the issue of menstruation. We are punished for having periods. This happens even if we follow their religious rules. They made us remove our undergarments because they thought some of us were lying about not having periods, and mingling with the others against rules. But the humiliation meted out to us on Thursday was the last straw. When we protested against this, trustee Pravin Pindoria told us that we could take legal action if we wanted but we would have to first leave the hostel. He also forced the students to sign a letter saying nothing happened in college. But enough is enough.”
When asked why the girls had not filed a police complaint, student Khushi* alleged that the college administration called their parents and emotionally blackmailed them saying that this was a religious matter and should not be taken to the cops.
Mirror got in touch with Pravin Pindoria, who is also an Executive Council member of KSKVKU university, but he refused to comment on the issue. Repeated calls and messages to principal Rita Raninga went unanswered.
Another SSGI trustee P H Hirani said, “We run a charitable organisation and take token fee. As the institute has a temple on campus, the girls have been instructed to follow the sect’s rules. However, what happened to the students is unfair. Action will be taken.”
As the news spread, KSKVKU incharge V-C Dr Darshana Dholakiya immediately formed a fact-finding committee. She told Mirror, “We will take strict action against whoever is responsible for this kind of behaviour.”
(*NAMES CHANGED TO PROTECT IDENTITIES)
Set up in 2012, the Shri Sahjanand Girls’ Institute offers BCom, BA and BSc courses. It has about 1,500 students of which 68, who come from remote villages, stay in the hostel on the campus which also houses a Swaminarayan temple
We will take strict action against whoever is responsible for this kind of behaviour
-Darshana Dholakia, In -charge
Vice-Chancellor, Krantiguru Shyamji
Krishna Verma Kutch University