Four and a half years later, we still do not know who raped the seven year old girl in the toilet of a Vasco school.
Four and a half years later, we still do not know who raped the seven year old girl in the toilet of a Vasco school. The Goa Children’s Court has given its verdict discharging the headmistress of the school and two of its staffers from any involvement, but none of the three agencies which have probed the case - the Vasco police, the Crime Branch and the CBI have managed to track down the perpetrator of the brutal act, that has left the family of the little girl scarred.
391 suspects have been interrogated. DNA tests were conducted on 14 suspects which included the nephew of the headmistress and her son. Eight suspects were put through the lie-detector test and finger print matching was done on nine suspects. After all this, the CBI gave a closure report stating that the culprit was not traceable.
The victim’s anguished and emotionally charged father is drained and tired as the rapist roams free. He wants the government to challenge the acquittals and find a way to identify and arrest the rapist.
This is a case which should have shaken the conscience of Goan society and its criminal justice system. The society hasn’t asked enough questions. The society hasn’t applied pressure in demanding to know who brutalised that little girl. For four years the rapist has evaded the law and is still perhaps there, living in the vicinity. As long he is not identified, there is a girl or a woman who continues to be potential danger.
Since the act was committed inside the premises of the school in broad daylight and the brute managed to make good his escape, it is absolutely clear that there are facts that are still hidden, dots which are still not joined, information which has still got suppressed. The courts can only deal with information which is available to them, by the prosecution. But this case has failed at the state of investigation.
Meanwhile there are bigger questions that need to be asked. Four years later, are the schools in Goa safe. Four year later, have all the recommendations made to look into the safety standards of schools implemented? Are the children of all schools monitored and under supervision all the time? Are there enough CCTV cameras to ensure 360 degree coverage and that too of areas in and around the school premises?
Each of these questions should drive home the under-preparedness of the school security system in most schools in Goa.
And as we focus on the Vasco rape case, we are grappling with fresh news of a murder of a seven year old boy, in the toilet of a well known school in Gurgaon, in Haryana, his throat slit allegedly by the conductor of the school bus, after he may have sexually assaulted the minor.
Whether in Gurgaon or in Goa, we are united in a tragic tale where the second home of the child- his or her school - has become vulnerable to the most vile dangers to the little ones.
The safety of school children needs to be a campaign run with even more seriousness than Swach Bharat. While this may be driven nationally, each state should take its own initiatives to draft a safety protocol to be followed by various stakeholders. And this should start from the time the child leaves the house till the the time the child returns home. The safety drill has to include transportation and the safety standards applicable to the vehicles carrying then to school.
As the Gurgaon child murder case seems to be clearly indicating, the rapist and killer is the bus conductor, which effectively points to the dangers that lurk in the lives of the absolutely innocent at every step of the way. While the intention is not to sound alarmist, it will be foolhardy to wish away the dangers and the threats.
From Gurgaon to Goa, our children face the same threats and challenges. And every stake holder – from the government to schools to parents- needs to rise to this challenge.