Sexual harassment led to Delhi school stampede: fact-finding report

By Staff Correspondent,

New Delhi: A fact-finding report released today has concluded that sexual harassment of girl students led to the stampede in the government senior secondary school in New Delhi’s Khajuri Khas area on September 10 resulting in the death of five girls and injury of scores of others.

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At the Government Girls Senior Secondary School (GGSSS) in Khajuri Khas 5 girls (Ayesha Khatoon, Monica David, Latika Nagar, Afroz Ansari and Mumtaz Ali) died in a stampede and at least 35 other girls were injured. While the government and school authorities said that sudden rush of girl students from ground floor to the first floor where boys were sitting after principal’s instruction for changed seating arrangement led to confusion and then stampede, the locals and injured girls said they were molested by boys, which led to panic among girls resulting in stampede.

Students coming out of the Khajuri Khas school

As the area has sizeable number of Muslim residents, the majority of the victims are from the community.
A fact-finding team comprising Professor Azra Razzack, Dr Farah Farooqui, academics from Jamia Millia Islamia, Kavita Krishnan of AIPWA, Radhika Menon of Forum for Democratic Initiatives, Omprakash Sharma, Rahimuddin and Vinod Kumar of Building Workers Union, and Ram Abhilash of Delhi State Committee, CPI (ML) visited the school and surrounding areas. The team found that what happened on the day was more than a simple tale of girls caught in a human crush. Several important facts emerged from the testimonies of students to the team

Summary of the report:

Sexual Harassment

It emerged undeniably that on 10th September, girl students at the school were subjected to sexual assault and virtual terrorisation by boys, leading to panic and stampede.

Boys, seated together with girls in the overcrowded school for exams, due to rain and flooding in the tin-housed classrooms, had been instructed to go to the first floor classrooms in the main building, via a dark, cramped stairway.

Some boys assaulted girls, causing them to panic and rush down the stairs. On the stairway, the boys continued to severely sexually assault girls.
Many of these boys were not in uniforms and had covered their faces with handkerchiefs, and the girls felt they may not have been school students.

Several girls, including Shama Parveen, Sajida, Shabana, Shahana, Nazia, Samina, Pooja, Anupma have mentioned that the chaos only increased as teachers either remained in the staff room or vanished when the chaos aggravated.

One girl, Nazreen mentioned how she saw a woman teacher threatened by a couple of handkerchief masked boys that she would be flung down the steps if she interfered. The boys were also pushing the girls and pulling the clothes of girls who were passing by.

Some boys were said to be carrying blades wrapped in a kerchief in their hand and went about ripping the clothes of girls.

We also met a girl, Saajida of class VII, who had bite marks on her left upper arm. Shama Parveen and Anupama have been having nightmares of assaults by boys since 10 September 2009 and so are several other girls who appear to be suffering post-traumatic stress conditions.

Gender Discrimination in Curriculum

It is not just the boys who indulge in sexual harassment and assault on girls. The Government itself discriminates against girls’ schools. Only 2 schools for the girls out of the 38 government schools in the zone offer science as a stream of study for girls at the senior secondary level, two others are co-educational. Notably, neither of the two girls senior secondary school in Khajuri Khas has the science stream, in fact the boys’ school in the evening shift has science while the girls’ school doesn’t. Is it that the authorities want to keep the girls from poor families deprived of science education?

Also, many students said that the Principals treated their parents with great disrespect and rudeness. The male teachers in the boys’ schools also kick and abuse the boys.

All the above factors create an atmosphere which encourages violence, anarchy and gender discrimination.
If Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan failed to provide basic infrastructure in the school, can ‘Roopantar’ really transform the school?

The school is part of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, receiving funds as well as benefiting from many ‘consultants’. Yet the school lacked chairs, tables, classrooms, safety…

The school building is far too inadequate to accommodate the number of students enrolled in the school. The girls’ school alone has strength of 2680 students, while the school only has 39 semi pucca rooms.

The school stairway is narrow and acted as a trap. It is bound on both sides by a wall making it dark even on a sunny day. It is the only stairway to the first floor building. This violates norms of a safe school building.

The school classrooms have only one entry and exit points, in case of a fire, the students would get trapped. The classrooms are dilapidated and the roofs of the upper primary classes can fall any day.

The upper primary classes of VI, VII, and VIII have the worst classrooms, which have no roofs, damaged walls and structurally deficient buildings. Many sections of VI and VII in the absence of classrooms sit in the sun during regular school hours and students have taken ill as a result of it.

Even in the senior classes there are no chairs and tables.

After the Khajuri tragedy, Delhi Education Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely took the opportunity to advertise his pet ‘public-private’ project of ‘Roopantar’, promising that it would transform the face of Delhi Government Schools. But the question is: if SSA-funded schools continue to be in such a sorry state, can ‘Roopantar’ result in any real change? When Shiela Dixit’s Delhi Government has crores to spend on Commonwealth Games, why is there no money and no emphasis for providing good schooling to the children of Delhi’s workers and poor?

The Question of Minority Welfare and Education

Northeast Delhi, is a minority dominated district. While a section of the population lives in the earlier village settlements, a majority live in the unauthorised colonies waiting for government recognition and have high density of population. A large number of the victims of the stampede come from Kachi Khajuri, the unauthorised colony, while the school is located in an area called Pucci Khajuri. The Pushta road separates the two Khajuris and students have to cross the extremely accident prone, high traffic road to reach the school.
An MCD school upto elementary level exists in Rajiv Colony (in Kachi Khajuri) and parents have wanted that this school be upgraded to Class XII, to at least accommodate the girls from the area, but no moves have been made to consider this.

Kachi Khajuri, populated largely by Muslim workers (mostly migrants from UP almost 20 years ago), is badly neglected. Houses are unplastered, lacking water and drainage. The lanes were slush pools due to rains. Many people, including very young children, from kachi khajuri went to pucci khajuri to fetch drinking water.

Pucci khajuri relatively is better endowed. Several houses in the area are well designed and the state of the streets was relatively better. While five government schools, the dispensary and the ration shop are all in Pucci Khajuri, Kachi Khajuri only has the police station. All this has only built up the perception amongst the residents that the area was being neglected because they were poor working class Muslims.

The residents have long been calling for a ration shop, and upgradation of the school in the area. However amongst their grievance was that neither the Ward Councillor (Rambeer from Congress), the MLA (Mohan Singh Bisht of BJP) nor the MP (Jaiprakash Aggarwal of Congress) in the area had responded to their concerns.

Concluding remarks and demands

The poor school infrastructure, lack of safety norms, and overcrowding ensured that the school was like a bomb waiting to burst. The sexual harassment incident was the match that lit the bomb. In a way, there is a Khajuri waiting to happen – due to neglect of poor children’s education, gender discrimination in schools and poor infrastructure – in every Government school in Delhi.

The girls of Khajuri are scared to return to school and their parents unwilling to send their daughters to school. The tragedy and denial of justice will result in the end of girls’ education in the area.
No amount of ‘Ladli’ schemes can change the fact that poor schoolgirls, far from being pampered as ‘Ladli’ are being discriminated and encouraged to drop out of schooling. Instead of the bluff of ‘Ladli’ and ‘Roopantar’ the Government must ensure funding for government schools as a priority.
Specifically, in the case of the stampede affected schools the following must be immediately done to ensure justice to the victims and to make sure girl’s education is not adversely affected.


1. Conduct an enquiry wherein the girls are allowed to give their statements while in their colony and investigate the role of miscreants in the events of 10 September 2009 in provoking the stampede.

2. Identify and punish the boys engaged in the sexual harassment.

3. Provide necessary free treatment, medicines and transport costs to girls who have been through the trauma. The State government must deploy necessary health facilities near the residence of the girls to ensure that treatment is taken. Trauma care, including counselling must be provided in the localities of residence for the affected school girls.

4. Take action against the school authorities because of whose negligence the stampede occurred.

5. Ensure the security of the students in school by preventing hooligans from hanging around the campus.

6. Ensure a curriculum for the boys in all schools that encourage healthy attitudes towards women.

7. Ensure wider options for girl’s education in terms of subject and stream choice

8. Increase the capacities of the school s to maintain the acceptable teacher student ratio. Open new schools of senior secondary education including up gradation of existing schools. Immediately start a senior secondary school in Kachi Khajuri.

9. Health, ration, infrastructure and other needs of the community must be fulfilled in Kachi Khajuri which has been facing neglect and official apathy. It is unrealistic to imagine children will excel in education when they are worrying about drinking water,

10. The Delhi Education Minister must take moral responsibility and resign for the failure of his ministry to ensure basic safety norms and objectives of education in schools under his responsibility.