By Sharanya Gopinathan
Here’s a really shocking and sad story, more so because it involves two tiny sisters, one in class I and the other in class II, studying in a school in Begusarai, Bihar.
The two students, both under seven years old, were forced to strip in front of all their classmates, and then sent home in their undergarments by a clearly hateful teacher named Anjana Devi. The reason was apparently that they hadn’t paid Rs 1600 for two pairs of uniforms that the school had distributed to the students. When the girls’ father went to the school authorities to complain about what happened, the principal, Mukesh Kumar, threatened him for not paying the money. He said that he pleaded for a little time to deposit the fee, but they stripped his daughters “on the spot in front of everyone”.
Obviously, two tiny kids under the age of seven have absolutely no way of ensuring their fees are paid, and can hardly be expected to bear any kind of responsibility if they’re not. This case says a lot about the kind of violence and humiliation that people feel confident in enacting upon young girls, and indicates the nasty sense of ownership and entitlement that many people, especially figures of authority, feel over female bodies.
Just this March, we saw an awful story from Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh where 70 girls were forced to strip by school authorities in order to check for menstrual blood. NDTV reports that one of the students in that case said, “Madam made us to take off our clothes saying she will beat us if we did not. We are kids, what could we do? She would have beaten us had we not obeyed her.” And so it is. It’s these kinds of rigid power hierarchies and a culture of ownership and impunity that lead to abuse in schools becoming more common and more vicious.
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