At least 45 girls have stopped going to school in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly district to escape harassment and stalking by groups of miscreants including students of the same institution, officials said on Thursday.
Police arrested two of the accused following a complaint lodged by parents.
Stalking was made separate category of punishable crime in 2013 but women continue to face harassment on way to office and educational institutions across the country. Activists say that the laws have failed to act as a deterrent in a highly patriarchal society where such incidents are often passed off as a minor issue.
Police said the girls are students of classes 8 to 12 at the Dunka Inter College, around 50 km from Bareilly. They stopped going to school on Monday after enduring harassment for several months.
“We have started investigation into the matter. The girls and their parents were assured of police support and so the students have decided to go back to school,” said RK Bharadwaj, Bareilly senior superintendent of police (SSP). He visited Dunka on Thursday to assess the situation.
Sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) RAN Pandey said the girls are harassed on their way to school, located around two km away from their homes in a cluster of villages near Dunka.
Pandey said he held meetings with the local police and school administration to resolve the issue.
“The goons stand outside the school gate and pass lewd comments. They even stalk the girls. How can our girls continue their education in this environment?” asked Satendra Singh of Dunga village. Satendra’s 17-year-old daughter is among those who have stopped going to school.
Officials said that following the arrest of two miscreants and assurance of senior officials, a few villagers have decided to send their daughters to school from Friday.
Last year, a similar incident was reported in Shergarh area here, when more than 100 girl students quit school after facing harassment.
The incident comes amid nationwide outrage over the gang rape of a 35-year-old woman and her minor daughter by highway robbers near Bulandshahr on Friday.
Crime against women is rampant in Uttar Pradesh -- the most populous state in the country – and accounts for the highest number of atrocities, data from the National Crime Records Bureau show.