Gujarat: 25 women guards allege mental, physical, and sexual harassment by senior officials

Surat: About 25 women home guards in Surat, in Gujarat have accused two senior officials of harassment and seeking sexual favours.

The women approached city police commissioner Satish Sharma on Friday with a written complaint, prompting an inquiry against the two senior home guard officials.

Sharma said a ‘local complaints committee’ set up under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was looking into it.

The complaint named the two — Home Guard Platoon Sergeant Bhavnaben Kantharia and Officer-in-Commanding Somnath Singh Gherwal — alleging that the duo subjected women to “mental, physical, sexual emotional and financial harassment”, and even asked sexual favours from some of them.

The four-page complaint has also been sent to Minister of State for Home Pradipsinh Jadeja and chief minister Vijay Rupani, official sources said.

The two senior officers asked for money for transfer to desired places, the women alleged. If the money was not paid, the women were transferred to far-off places and harassed, said the complaint.

One of the senior officers, Gherwal, often touched women home guards inappropriately on the pretext of adjusting their uniform, the complaint alleged. It also added that some of the women were forced to work as domestic help for seniors.

Responding to the allegations, Home Guard commandant, Surat, Dr Praful Shiroya said that the allegations made by the complainants are “baseless”.

“We have referred the matter to the district local complaints committee headed by a deputy commissioner of police,” commissioner Sharma told reporters Saturday.

“Home guards have nothing to do with the police department, so we cannot take their complaints before the police’s internal committee. The local complaints committee has started inquiry into it,” he said.

DCP Vidhi Chaudhary told Indian Express that the complaints will be investigated and strict action will be taken against those found responsible for sexual harassment or assault. “We will call them again and record their statements”, she added when asked about Gherwal and Kantharia.

(With inputs from PTI)