A college in Gujarat on Thursday allegedly forced 68 undergraduate students to remove their undergarments to prove to the authorities that they were not menstruating, Ahmedabad Mirror reported.

The incident took place at Shree Sahajanand Girls Institute in Bhuj town after the hostel warden complained to the principal that some of the students were violating religious norms during their menstruation. A committee has been formed to investigate the matter.

The college, set up in 2012, comes under Krantiguru Shyamji Krishna Verma Kutch University. It is run by the followers of Swaminarayan Mandir. Menstruating women are not allowed to enter the temple and kitchen premises as per the sect’s rules. Hostel inmates are not even allowed to mingle with each other.

One of the students told Ahmedabad Mirror that they were forced to leave their classrooms and queue up outside. “The principal abused and insulted us, asking which of us were having our periods,” she added. “Two of us who were menstruating stepped aside. Despite this, we were all taken to the washroom. There, female teachers asked us to individually remove our undergarments so they could check if we were menstruating.”

Another student said most hostel residents belong to remote villages. “The principal, hostel rector and the trustees harass us regularly over the issue of menstruation,” she alleged. “We are punished for having periods. This happens even if we follow their religious rules. They made us remove our undergarments because they thought some of us were lying about not having periods, and mingling with the others against rules. But the humiliation meted out to us on Thursday was the last straw.”

The student added that Pravin Pindoria, who is the executive council member of the university, told the students that they were free to take legal action once they vacate the hostel. She alleged that Pindoria also forced them to sign a letter saying no such incident had occurred.

The deputy superintendent of police of Bhuj said a case was registered against three officials of the college administration, and the hostel supervisor. “Two women officers have also spoken to the girl students,” the unidentified official told ANI.

“We run a charitable organisation and take token fee,” college trustee PH Hirani said. “As the institute has a temple on campus, the girls have been instructed to follow the sect’s rules. However, what happened to the students is unfair. Action will be taken.”

The official in charge of the university, Darshana Dholakia, assured that strict action would be taken against those responsible for the incident. She later told ANI that the matter was related to the hostel, and no one touched the girls. “It has nothing to do with the university or college,” she added. “Everything happened with girls’ permission, nobody was forced for it.”

The National Commission for Women has formed an inquiry committee that will meet the students, The Times of India reported. The commission has also asked the authorities explain the reason behind this “shameful exercise”. The panel has also asked Dholakia and the director general of police to investigate the case and report to it. The State Women Commission has also ordered the police to investigate the matter, according to IANS.