Kannur/Thiruvananthapuram: In a shocking incident, a female candidate who appeared at a NEET center here Sunday claimed she had to remove her innerwear before sitting for the entrance test, prompting the Kerala State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) to register a case. Other women candidates too faced a harrowing experience due to a strict dress code in force.
The strict adherence to the Central Board of Secondary Education's (CBSE) anti-cheating dress code for those appearing for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET-UG) saw an invigilator asking a student in Pariyaram in Kannur to remove her innerwear before writing the exam on Sunday.
The anguished candidate told media persons after attempting the NEET -- conducted for admission to undergraduate medical courses in government and private medical colleges in the country -- that she was asked by the examination center's officials to remove her innerwear.
The 18-year-old was allegedly asked to remove her bra when the metal detector used by the invigilators beeped.
"My daughter went inside the center, only to return later and hand me her top innerwear," said her mother.
Another candidate, who was wearing a pair of jeans, was asked to remove a pocket as well as metal buttons from the clothing.
Her father told IANS: "She was wearing jeans. Since it had pockets and metal buttons, they needed to be removed. I went to a shop about three km away from the exam center and bought a new dress for her after getting the shop opened."
As if this was not enough, she was asked to remove her top for physical frisking, the parent said.
"My child could not write the examination properly. She was not in a proper frame of mind," he told PTI.
Churidar tops below the knees were cut, long sleeves were chopped, earrings were removed, parents alleged.
The students were not even allowed to wear slippers. As per the norms, only high heels and shoes were not permissible, they said.
Those living in the vicinity of the school came forward to help candidates by giving them suitable clothes to wear. Many parents had to borrow clothes from the neighbors as shops were not open being a Sunday.
At another exam center in the state, a student was asked to remove her head scarf.
Angry parents hurt over the manner in which their daughters were forced to remove their clothes for appearing in the NEET said they would file complaints before the CBSE and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
Meanwhile, the SHRC on Monday registered a case over the incident which it called a serious human rights violation.
"The CBSE regional director has been asked to give an explanation within three weeks. Kannur district police chief has also been asked to file a report," the commission said.
The Commission in a letter also urged the NHRC to immediately intervene and take stern steps against CBSE for human rights violations.
The Kerala Child Rights Commission also sought a detailed report from CBSE within 10 days.
Kannur district police chief G. Siva Vikaram said a case would be registered if the parents file a complaint.
"So far we have not received any complaints. The Special Branch has been asked to look into the incident," he said.
Reacting to the incident, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said "forcibly implementing such regulations in the name of dress code cannot be accepted by any civilized society."
A few complaints have been received on the manner in which some students were frisked in certain examination centers, he said in a Facebook Post.
He said a student was asked to remove her inner wear.
"If the incident is true, it is a serious violation of human rights. Such restrictions will mentally affect the children appearing for the exams," the chief minister said.
Principal calls meet
The alleged incident took place at a centre in an English medium school in Kannur. Its principal, Jalaluddin K told a TV channel that they had clear instructions that if the metal detector beeps, no one can be allowed inside.
On the allegations of the girl being forced to remove her underwear, he said he had called a meeting of those involved in frisking at the school.
The issue also had its echo in the state assembly, which is in session, with education minister C Raveendranath promising that the government would look into the matter.
However, the Education Department sources said the state had no role in the conduct of the NEET exam.
All directions on its conduct are being given by CBSE, they said.
Kerala Women's Commission member Premeela Devi said they had not received any complaints from parents to launch proceedings.
Stating that the incidents were "unfortunate", she said such loopholes might have crept in during the implementation of the CBSE rules.
"The ordeal is over but it's debatable how many female candidates would have been able to write the exam properly after they were subjected to so much humiliation. I will write to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan to seek action against those responsible," said state Mahila Congress president Bindhu Krishna.
CPM leader and MP from Kannur P.K. Sreemathi termed the incident a human rights violation.
"Instead of executing the guidelines regarding the conduct of the exam in a practical way, the authorities harassed the the candidates mentally," Sreemathi said at a press meet in Kannur Monday.
She said she would file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, Women's Commission and the MHRD on the issue.
Former KPCC president V.M. Sudheeran condemned the incident at Pariyaram and said "the ordeal (of the girl) was cruel and a blot on the state."
Neighboring Tamil Nadu also reported instances of students being asked to remove their head scarves.
Over 11 lakh MBBS and BDS aspirants appeared for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) at over 1,900 centres across the country on Sunday.