The manager and a woman staffer of a government-aided boarding school in western Maharashtra's Sangli district have been arrested on charges of allegedly sexually assaulting girl students under their care. Angered by the news, locals stormed the institution and beat up the headmaster, who -- incidentally -- is not an accused in the case.
Police identified the accused, arrested on Wednesday night, as Arvind Pawar and Manisha Kamble. "We believe three girls were raped and five molested. The accused have been charged under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and placed under our custody," said Additional Superintendent of Police Shashikant Borade.
The incident, which bears striking similarities to those recently reported from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, caused an uproar among local residents. After the police freed the headmaster from their custody, they ransacked the school and burnt Mr Pawar's effigy.
"This is perversion of the worst kind, and we want to end it. The accused should be hanged in the town square," said Abhijit Patil, a local resident, summing up the mood of the mob.
According to police, the matter came to light when a special officer received an anonymous letter detailing the sexual crimes allegedly occurring inside the institution. It was said that Mr Pawar, a politically connected person, used to summon girls to his home.
Mr Borade has promised an unbiased investigation into the incident as well as a speedy trial in a fast-track court. "We are investigating who else is involved in the case, and how the accused managed to get away with committing such heinous crimes for so long. We are ensuring foolproof evidence after taking legal advice to ensure that the accused is punished," senior police officer Vishwas Nangare Patil told NDTV.
According to police, the accused not only sexually exploited the girls but also made them do household chores. Besides this, they found evidence that while the school had just 36 students, its administration registered 72 in order to claim government aid. Even then, only 25 students were found to be physically present at the institution, and police are trying to account for the rest.