With more than 28 institutes, 2,000 teachers and 25,000 students, Parul University, in Waghodia, has been one of the most sought-after private universities in Gujarat. However, on June 17, its name was besmirched: A 22-year-old nursing student accused Jayesh Patel, the university's founder, of raping her.
The state BJP suspended Patel from the party and he stepped down as university president on June 20.
In her complaint, the student said Patel, 66, called her to his residence, adjacent to the women's hostel, and raped her. She said the rector Bhavna Chauhan dropped her at Patel's quarters at night, where he made sexual advances, promising her good results and attendance, and, when she resisted, raped her. Reportedly, Patel had told Chauhan that the student would have dinner and return.
The government told the police to take swift action. Vadodara superintendent of police Saurabh Tolambiya said the student's medical report confirmed rape. The police have obtained statements of the student and three witnesses under section 164 of CrPC, as recorded by a judicial magistrate. The police then arrested Patel and the rector.
Allegedly, the nursing student was not his only victim. On June 19, Aeshra Patel, a model based in Mumbai, came out in support of the victim. She said that, a few years ago, when she was a physiotherapy student at Parul University, Patel had misbehaved with her, too. She left her course midway, changed her name and moved to Mumbai. Apparently, she had kept quiet as she feared the allegations would tarnish her image.
In the 1980s, Patel ran Parul Clinic, a homoeopathic clinic in Ahmedabad, and was reportedly “notorious” for performing abortions, for a sum of Rs150. It is said he made a killing in this business, moved into land deals and eventually set up the university in 2000.
Though Patel resigned, the anger in Waghodia is palpable. The Congress has staged protests, as have several women’s groups, the Trained Nurses Association of India and some leftist groups. The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti has also threatened to join the agitation. Patel's political rival, BJP MLA Madhu Shrivastav, said he would take the agitation to the state level if he wasn’t punished.
Patel's son, Devanshu, told the media that his father was innocent and that the girl had been facing charges of “misconduct”. The university advertised its comments in leading newspapers, saying: “Reports published in various news media in reference to a complaint against the president of the university, on June 17, 2016 and later, are only allegations.” The university said it believed there would be an impartial investigation and, because of Patel's “invaluable contribution to higher education in Gujarat and his transparent image”, he would be declared innocent.