A teacher and a watchman stand accused of raping tribal girls at a government-run residential school in Chhattisgarh's Kanker district in India.
Deenaram, 23, and Mannu Ram Gota, 24, were arrested this past weekend following a complaint by the Women and Child Development Officer, First Post notes. The alleged assault occurred over the course of several months and involved at least 10 resident students between the ages of eight and 12 at Tribal Girls Pre-Matric Hostel, a boarding school in central India.
According to The Indian Express, the girls had complained about the assault for months, even taking their case to the hostel superintendent, Babita Markam. Police claim that they hadn't been aware of the charges until recently.
"We learnt about the incident only yesterday. We took the statements of the girls and are now getting them medically examined," Kanker Superintendent of Police Rahul Bhagat told The Indian Express. He added that physical evidence proving the rapes may be difficult to establish given the amount of time passed since the incidents, the last of which allegedly occurred in August.
The Times of India reports that Markam has been fired amid calls for action by local and state organizations. Adivasi Samaj, a tribal group, staged a silent rally in support of the girls, while a delegation of state Congress visiting the village condemned the state government for failing to protect its students.
In a statement reported by Business Standard, the opposition party criticized the placement of male teachers in the hostel and called for the dismissal of Chief Minister Raman Singh.
"The appointment of male staff in a girls' residential school was also objectionable," the statement says. "Several incidents of rape had been reported in the state over the last one month, yet the government has not woken up from its slumber."
Singh responded by expediting the prosecution of the case, while asserting that female staff would be placed in all girls' residential schools and hostels going forward.
This alleged incident is the latest in a slew of sexual assault cases now gaining attention across India, sparked by the brutal rape and beating of a 23-year-old woman and her eventual death from injuries sustained in the attack. On Friday, Mohan Bhagwat, the leader of a prominent Hindu nationalist group, sparked outrage when he stated that rape occurs in India's cities that have embraced western values and not its smaller towns and villages.