By Sharanya Gopinathan
Around 80 girls from Gothera Tappa Dahena village in Haryana have begun a hunger strike since Wednesday. On Friday, four of the students had to be taken to the hospital because of their deteriorating health.
The students of class 11 and 12 say that they have to walk three kilometers to go to the senior secondary school in Kanwali, and that they face harassment and molestation from boys on the way. The sarpanch says that men on bikes wearing helmets molest the girls and get away with it because their identities are concealed. The girls on strike are demanding that the village high school be upgraded to a senior secondary school so that they don’t have to make the commute to Kanwali.
Despite 80 girls being on hunger strike, the District Education Officer Dharamvir Balodia said to the Hindustan Times that the girls were being “misled” by their parents and the sarpanch. How the sarpanch and the girls’ parents could convince the girls that they were being harassed daily if they were not, or why they would want their wards to stop going to school and go on hunger strike is beyond us. The DEO’s infantilising remarks here remind us of all the politician who said that Gurmehar Kaur was being brainwashed by someone back when she protested against the ABVP’s violent actions at Delhi University, and all the other gents who just assumed that she could have no opinions of her own to back her protest.
This isn’t the first time this district has faced similar problems: last year, after a student was raped on her way to school, female students from two villages stopped going to school. This is clearly an issue that the district’s been facing for a long time, so it’s disheartening that officials in the area either seem reluctant to deal with it, or haven’t been communicated with effectively about it. The SP also said to the Hindustan Times that in this case she hadn’t received any complaints from the students, but assured the girls that their demands would be discussed with higher authorities.
This news comes at a time when the headlines are also dominated by other incredibly shocking and depressing news from Haryana: the body of a 20-year-old woman from Sonepat was found in Rohtak, and it is clear that she had been attacked and raped with horrifying brutality. This prompted the mother of the victim to make a depressing statement asking mothers not to give birth to daughters so that they would never have to see this day. That’s of course a dangerous thing to say for obvious reasons, but is indicative of the deep horror and grief she’s experiencing.