A 20-year old student of Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IITM) was sexually assaulted by a security guard, Mustafa Ahmed. The incident took place in the midst of IITM’s annual festival- Sarang 2016.

The student was walking alone towards Velachery Gate, located at western end of the campus at 4 am. The gate is situated about 2 km from the main building and is a very secluded stretch even in daytime. The area is also not brightly lit which made it an easy place for an assault to take place. Also because it was dark, the CCTVs installed in the vicinity did not capture anything. On seeing that the student was alone, Ahmed tried to pin her down by pushing her. But the student hit Ahmed in the groin and ran away.

During the festival, IITM gets help from the local police with about 120 personnel deployed at various locations in the campus. This is in addition to the hired security personnel, security officers from the institute and student volunteers. Ahmed is part of the security agency that was hired to keep vigil and help maintain crowds that throng the campus during the annual fest. The police had left the campus by 11.30 pm as events for the day were over.

PaGaLGuY spoke to IITM students about the assault. Some were of the opinion that the student should have taken some friends with her when going out at odd hours. Some students were in the campus taking stock of things and making arrangement for the next day, but far away from the spot. Though students can freely go around the campus, the occurrence of an assault, despite security measures, raises a concern about the safety of women.

 A case has been registered by the police and Ahmed has been put behind bars. At the institute level, C-Case, a body of experts will do the required follow-up with the police and offer counselling to the student. A student suggested on condition of anonymity that patrolling by security personnel at regular intervals may help. But doubts remain about how to ensure that such assaults can be prevented from recurring in the future.         

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