On March 29th, a 17-year-old Delta Meghwal was found dead in a water tank of the college she was studying in. She was allegedly raped, murdered and thrown into the tank. Meghwal had been training to be a teacher at the Jain Adarsh Teacher Training Institute for girls in Nokha, Bikaner, Rajasthan. Despite the barbaric nature of the incident, there has been apathy by the media and the state government towards Delta. There are also reports of involvement of some powerful persons, who are trying to suppress the issue.
Delta Meghwal Delta, a Dalit teenager, hailed from the village of Tromohi in Barmer district, Rajasthan. She was persuading her BSTC (a course after 10+2, to become a school teacher). She was a brilliant student and an amazing painter, having topped in an Art competition in whole of Rajasthan when she was in 12th standard. One of her artwork was featured in an art magazine published by Rajasthan secretariat in 2006, when she was just 7 years old.
FIR by Delta’s parents The FIR states that at 8 pm on the evening of March 28th, Meghwal called her father and told him she had been raped. That day, there were only four other young women in the hostel, the others being away at home. She said that the hostel warden Priya Shukla had sent her to the PT instructor Vijendra Singh’s room to clean it. (This is a clear indication that the hostel administration actively both violated Meghwal’s dignity and her safety). There she was raped by him. She seemed very scared while narrating the incident, according to her parents. To cover up the incident, within the next few hours, the institute had forced a written apology from both Meghwal and Singh, citing that they had been ‘caught’ in Singh’s room having sex by mutual consent.
Negligence by police On the morning of March 29, her dead body was found in the water tank of her hostel under suspicious conditions. Police took her body in municipal garbage carrying vehicle (tractor) without video graphing it. Claim by institute According to institution, she committed “suicide” because they caught her in PT teacher Vijendra Kumar’s room, and they had warned both and asked them to write an apology. Authorities said they had not realized the girl was missing. It was a hostel for girl students. It had a warden, but she lived a long way off, not within the hostel. There were not enough security guards.
Investigation “The rape was confirmed and the PT Instructor was arrested. We presented him before the magistrate today and have taken him on five-day remand. The other two are yet to be arrested. There were no injury marks on her body so we cannot say if it was murder, but we are awaiting forensic results to ascertain the cause of her death”, Bikaner SP (rural) Satnam Singh told the Indian Express. The post-mortem report showed that the girl’s lungs were safe and not filled with water, as might have been the case if she had drowned. Her parents have maintained that it cannot be a case of suicide.
Questions surface If the claim made by college authorities is valid, several questions arise:
- Why did the Institution not inform her parents?
- Why did the Institute not sack the PT teacher and file a complaint against him as she was a minor?
- Why was the college’s knee-jerk reaction to force Meghwal to write a letter that she had been shamefully caught in consensual sex with her teacher?
- Why was due process not followed by the police when Meghwal’s body was found?
- Why did the police use a garbage tractor to move her body?
- What kind of institution is this, where would be considered ‘normal’ for a teenage girl student to be sent to clean the room of a teacher?
Uproar all over the country Apart from her own colleagues and fellow residents of Rajasthan, there have been widespread protests across the country. People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Rajasthan organized a protest on April 2, 2016. On April 2, a group of people gathered outside the Town Hall in Bangalore seeking justice for the teenager. On April 4, 2016, JNUSU (Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union) gave a call for a protest outside Bikaner House in Delhi. A delegation of four people met the Resident Commissioner and submitted a letter demanding action against the PT coach and the hostel warden. Activists said they had already met state home minister Gulab Chand Kataria and apprised him of the facts of the case. “We have conducted a fact-finding mission, and our report will be out by April 7,” said Nisha Siddu of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW).
Demands for Justice
- Activists and the complainants have put forward some demands to get justice for Delta:
- Criminal action to be taken against the principal of the college, Eashwar Chand Vaid and warden Priya Shukla who are complicit in the rape and murder of Delta and subsequent covering up of the case.
- Criminal action be taken against Vijendra Singh for rape and murder of Delta Meghwal.
- Police officers who removed the body with a garbage tractor without video graphing it to be suspended from service immediately and atrocities case to be registered against them
- A Prevention of Atrocities (SC/ST) to be filed against the college administration, principal Eashwar Chand Vaid, warden Priya Shukla, PT master Vijendra Singh ( in addition to other criminal cases of rape, murder and criminal conspiracy)
- An independent, high level enquiry to be done into the case and the legal proceedings to happen through fast-track court to ensure speedy justice.
- A compensation of 50 lakhs to be given to the family of Delta Meghwal.
- The government to withdraw recognition to Nokha Jain College and students completing their studies must be transferred to another college.
- The name of the school in Trimohi village in which she studied , must be changed to the Delta Meghwa Trimohi
- At the state level for Dalit girls, Delta Meghwal State Scholarship should be introduced.
- There are also appeals to the mainstream media to cover this issue and the protests for justice for Delta Meghwal and end their silence on caste-based sexual violence.
The Logical Indian is keenly concerned about the fate of Delta, who could have prospered lives of many. We request the state government to act strictly and swiftly to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice at the earnest. Despite receiving little coverage from mainstream media, as an alternative media platform, we consider it our duty to raise the issue and initiate debate about safety and security of our sisters and daughters, who are threatened even in as sacred place as educational institute!