Reports that large crowds of men sexually harassed and abused students at a women’s college in the Indian capital of New Delhi last week has sparked an outcry and protests there.
The men barged onto the Gargi College campus in South Delhi last Thursday, on the final day of a school festival, allegedly molesting and sexually assaulting the female students en masse, according to a statement issued by the General Body of Students.
The student group said that “thousands” of men jumped the gates of the university, descended onto the campus and damaged property, while police and non-teaching staff stood by and did nothing.
“Men stood in gangs and ogled at women, groped them, tried to feel them up, pushed them, and touched them throughout the concert,” the statement read.
“People formed human chains to move from one area to another. After the concert was over, the men followed women, catcalled them, and forced them to reveal their names and Instagram IDs.”
New Delhi police said it had filed an official complaint against unidentified people for trespassing, as well as assaulting and harassing women, at a Delhi college last week.
“We are in touch with the principal of the college and are looking at CCTV footage as well,” police spokesperson Anil Mittal said.
The Deputy Commissioner of South Delhi Police Atul Thakur said that police were investigating claims that officers did not take action during the alleged assaults.
“We have started our own formal inquiry and it is being led by a senior police official,” Mr Thakur added.
Many of the allegations of harassment and abuse were reported to the Gargi Students’ Union through an online form. The Union said the three-day festival, known as “Reverie ’20,” started peacefully, before taking a “horrendous” turn on the third day.
“It became absolutely impossible to move in that crowd,” the union said in a statement.
The union claimed bouncers and police “looked incompetent and indifferent” as hundreds of people barged through the gates.
Gargi College has condemned the “outrageous incidents” that took place during Reverie, saying that it was committed to the security of students and would set up a “high-level fact finding committee” to meet with the complainants and eyewitnesses.
“The institution will file a report of complaints to the police at the earliest so perpetrators can be brought to justice,” principal Promila Kumar said in a statement. “We will set up a security protocol to ensure such incidents never take place again.”
Protesters gathered outside the school on Monday, some holding signs calling for Kumar to resign.
The General Body of Students has called for a mass strike at the school until a meeting is secured with the principal and teachers responsible for their safety and security. It is also calling on students to sign a petition “to assure us a safe and secure Reverie 2021 with a proper plan of action put in front of us.”
The Chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women, Swati Maliwal, visited the college on Monday to meet with students and the administration.
“In Gargi College, the miscreants busted the walls and molested the college girls. Despite such a serious matter, the police and college administration present on the spot have not taken any action yet!” Ms Maliwal tweeted, adding that the perpetrators “must be arrested immediately!”