India rape
Police arrest gym instructor for the alleged rape of six-year-old student at elite school in Bangalore. Reuters

This is an elite school boasting of high-end facilities like swimming pool, a gym and indoor stadiums. Yet, the management had not bothered to verify the background information of a skating instructor before hiring him.

Section 17 of India's Right to Education Act bans corporal punishment, both mental and physical. Yet, the six-year-old child was locked up in a room for alleged misbehaviour.

Despite boasting of the presence of CCTVs in the campus, how did the school management remain unaware of the dastardly crime committed by its staff?

In a city that is home to some of the world's top technology firms, do the police lack in surveillance methods? How else does one explain the surfeit of rapes reported in the last few weeks? The child rape incident was followed by another rape of a 22-year-old woman in a car on 10 July and yet another one of a 15-year-old nun in a seminary.

These are some of the troubling questions arising out of the rape of a six-year-old girl in the nation's IT hub, Bangalore.

Police have since arrested a skating instructor for the alleged rape of the child at Vibgyor High school in Marathahalli in the city. They are still looking for another accused.

A laptop and mobile phone with videos and images of children being raped was seized from the accused.

"We have arrested a man working as an instructor with the school. Mustafa, alias Munna, aged about 30 to 32 years old is from Bihar and has been in Bangalore for 20 years, " Bangalore Police Commissioner Raghavendra Auradkar told a press conference.

"Disturbingly, most of the downloaded videos depicted children in uniform being raped," Auradkar added.

According to police, CCTV camera footage showed Mustafa dragging the six-year-old student into a room on 3 July afternoon. Initially, it was believed that the crime took place on July 2.

The six-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by the fitness instructor and an unidentified man in the school's gym on two separate days.

According to the police, another school in the city had terminated Mustafa's services after his alleged involvement in a sexual assault case. But the matter was not reported to the police. Worse, the school at Marathahalli, where he works, had not verified his background before employing him.

There have been conflicting media reports on how the rape took place. Some reports mention the child was punished for misbehaviour by being locked up in an empty room used to store gym equipment and was assaulted there. However, the school claims that she left the classroom to use the toilet.

Other reports say that the child told her mother an 'uncle' had befriended her and taken her out of school after classes and sexually assaulted her.

The child's mother found out about the assault seven days later, when a private nursing home hinted that the child, who had been sick after the incident, could have been raped.

The police have reportedly increased patrols in the city. Manned by women police, the patrol vehicles are meant to address women's grievances.

Child Rapes Tripled in a Decade

The Asian Centre for Human Rights notes that incidences of reported child rapes had spiralled from 2,113 in 2001 to 7,112 in 2011. A study by the ministry of women and child development in 2007 reported that two out of three children face physical abuse, and 42% of children face sexual abuse in some form.

Official statistics say about 25,000 rapes are committed every year in India, a nation of 1.2 billion people. Activists say the number is just a tiny percentage of the actual number, since a majority of the cases goes unreported. Insensitive handling of victims by police, the stigma attached to rape and the involvement often of family members result in victims preferring to stay silent.

In the aftermath of the Delhi Nirbhaya rape case of 2012 where a girl was gang-raped in a moving bus, the Justice Verma commission report brought a change in the rape laws in the country, making amendments to the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. But while the laws are well-intentioned, implementation is often missing.

Nishit Kumar, CHILDLINE India Foundation, says that child protection has three components — prevention, intervention and rehabilitation. India, he says, is not doing its bit in any of these sections.

The foundation came up with a 'Child Protection Protocol', which had to be made an integral part of all spaces that children would frequent. Some of the protocols for schools could be separate toilets for girls and boys, separate toilets for children and staff, a policy of no extra tuition hours for individual kids etc.

The new laws say that policemen should meet the rape survivor anywhere the child wants to meet and that the child can be accompanied by a guardian if he or she wants. But this is often not implemented, says Kumar.

Corporal punishment is the other serious issue thrown up by the incident. According to a survey conducted by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), about 99 per cent children had experienced some kind of stern punishment in school.

While caning topped the punishments, slapping was close behind followed by abuse. Reports of children resorting to the extreme step of suicide following punishment at school have led to the banning of corporal punishment. But just like so many other practices banned, this one too refuses to go away.