Crime Scene police line
Crime scene police line | Representational Image Photo: GETTY IMAGES / SCOTT OLSON

The principal of a school in the Indian state of Haryana has been accused of sexually assaulting as many as 142 minor girls over a period of six years.

The alleged crimes occurred at a school in the Jind district of the state. The accused, identified as 56-year-old Kartar Singh, was arrested earlier this month following a preliminary investigation.

The crimes first came to light after some of the students at the school wrote a letter to India's President Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, the National Commission for Women, and the State Commission for Women on August 31 of this year.

In the letter, they spoke in detail about the alleged horrific acts they were subjected to over several years by the accused. The Haryana Women's Commission took cognisance of the letter a few weeks later and directed the police to launch an investigation into the matter.

Some local media reports claimed that the police delayed filing the First Information Report (FIR) initially. The accused was arrested only after the intervention of the Haryana State Commission for Women.

A Special Investigation Team (SIT) of six members, led by Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Deepti Garg, was set up to carry out an extensive investigation into the matter on November 16.

The victims have claimed that Singh used to call them to his office and "indulge in obscene acts".

"He touched my forehead and slid his hands to touch my chest. My parents will marry me off if I confess to the police," one of the students told The Print, an Indian publication.

Singh was made principal of the school in 2018. Some reports have claimed that he also allegedly sexually harassed the female cook when he was a senior teacher at another school.

Mohammad Imran Raza, the deputy commissioner of Jind district, told ANI: "A probe committee led by the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) has recorded the statements of 390 girls in total, and we have forwarded complaints of 142 instances of sexual assault on girls to higher officials of the Education department for further action.

"Of these 142 girls, the majority accused the principal of sexually assaulting them while the rest said they were witnesses to the horrific acts. The accused principal is currently behind bars".

The Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) has directed the probe team to file a report in the case within 10 days. The authorities have also arranged counselling for the victims.

A similar case was reported in Pakistan earlier this year. A school principal was accused of raping and blackmailing several women. The incident came to light after a CCTV video of one of the victims went viral on social media.

The alleged incidents took place at a private school in Gulshan-i-Hadeed, Karachi. The victims claimed that the accused, identified as Irfan Ghafoor Memon, lured them on the pretext of giving them a job, then raped them and also recorded the crime to blackmail them.

The police launched an investigation into the matter and discovered as many as 25 such short video clips on his cellphone. One of the victims claims that Menon asked her to come to the school for an interview, and after three months, he again asked her to visit the school.

When she visited the school again, he asked her to sit in his office, locked the door, and assaulted her. He then went on to offer her a job at the school. Memon rented the school last year in December. There were around 10 female teachers, five male teachers, and 250 students in the school.

According to local media reports, over 45 women have become victims of Menon since December last year. He was arrested days after the crime came to light.