Sant Dnyaneshwar Hostel students allege they were manhandled, threatened

During a meeting in the rector’s office to discuss their problems with the hostel facilities, the students allege the rector’s son threatened and manhandled them

Three days after mid-day reported the poor and unsanitary living conditions students had to suffer at Sant Dnyaneshwar Hostel of Social Welfare Department (SWD), the dispute between the hostel administration and the students blew up on Tuesday evening, with the students now alleging that they were manhandled and threatened by the rector’s son.

Pune students protest
Students launched a protest outside the office of SWD state commissioner, Ranjeet Deval, objecting to the harassment they allegedly received at the hands of hostel rector Sangita Davkhar and her son. PICs/Dattatraya Adhalge

The government hostel, situated near Pune railway station, houses 120 students from Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities, as well as those from economically backward sections of society. mid-day had reported that the students had a list of 13 demands they presented to the SWD, including clean drinking water, cleaning the unhygienic dining hall and access to the library (Students deprived of basic comforts in government hostel, Sep 15).

Sangita Davkhar, rector of Sant Dnyaneshwar Hostel of Social Welfare Department.
Sangita Davkhar, rector of Sant Dnyaneshwar Hostel of Social Welfare Department.

Rector Sangita Davkhar had called a meeting with the students in her cabin on Tuesday evening, to discuss their concern about the unclean mess. “Around 7.45 pm, Sangita madam’s son entered the cabin and started threatening us. He even manhandled one of the students. This is not the first time we have witnessed such humiliation. Last week, the rector’s husband had also behaved with the students in a similar way,” alleged a student on the condition of anonymity.

Ranjeet Deval
Ranjeet Deval, state commissioner of Social Welfare Department

A former resident of the hostel, Kumar Gaikwad, said, “The students absolutely have no problems if madam has to behave harshly to impart discipline. But how can her son and husband interfere and manhandle students? This is unacceptable. This has been going on for some time, but yesterday’s incident crossed all limits.”

Another student added, “As the situation heated up, some students dialled 100 for the police. Madam then threatened us saying if we approached the police, she would file a cross-complaint of molestation against us.” He added that even when the police did arrive on the scene, instead of taking action against the rector and her son, they threatened the students instead.

Outraged, a mob of around 50 students went to the nearby Bund Garden police chowky, but it would be another three hours before their complaint would be registered, and even then, it was in a non-cognisable complaint and not an FIR (first information report).

Police Sub-Inspector Pramod Katore said, “Yes, those students were seated for a couple of hours. But, that was their internal matter. I advised them to resolve the issue by approaching senior officials in the administration, rather than asking us to register an FIR. Still, I filed a non-cognisable complaint in the matter. The issue is minor.”

No help from SWD
The students did not find any support even with SWD State Commissioner, Ranjeet Deval, who said that he could not resolve issues at each and every hostel. This, despite the fact that Deval’s office and the hostel are on the very same campus.

“See, this issue comes under the purview of the District Assistant Commissioner of SWD. I called him to look into the situation. The hostel has CCTVs. Hence, after checking the actual footage of the incident, we will decide a further course of action,” Deval added.

But, even though the hostel premise is equipped with 16 CCTV cameras, the rector’s office — where the incident allegedly took place — has no CCTV surveillance.

The other side
Hostel rector Sangita Davkhar has refused all charges levelled against her by the students. “As the meeting with students went on for two hours, my son just came to see me, when he observed that some students were interacting with me without any respect. That’s the only reason he exchanged some arguments with them. Besides that, he has neither threatened anyone nor indulged in any manhandling. All these allegations are wrong,” Davkhar said.

She added, “It is an absolutely baseless allegation that I threatened to lodge a complaint of molestation against any of the students. They are like my kids and handling them is quite a challenging task. During the meeting, too, despite showing them all records to clarify why some changes were getting delayed, they just did not believe me, and claimed we were deliberately hiding things from them.”

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