Mumbai: A group of parents, accompanied by members of the vigilante right-wing group Bajrang Dal, entered the premises of a school in Pune’s Talegaon Dabhade area on Tuesday and assaulted the school principal for allegedly singing a school prayer with the phrase “Dear Lord”. The attack, which was captured by some of the school staff, soon went viral on social media, forcing the police to step in. The teacher, Alexander Coates Reid, was seen in a viral video being chased by a mob of over 25-30 persons, chanting “Har Har Mahadev”.
An official from the Talegaon MIDC Police Station that is looking into the matter told The Wire that Reid is a “strict teacher” and a few parents were waiting to confront him. “They decided to make an issue out of a non-issue, involve local vigilante groups and attack the principal,” said Police Inspector Ranjit Sawant of the Talegaon MIDC area.
According to Sawant, the attack was preplanned. The group, Sawant says, had approached the school with a grievance against the installation of a CCTV camera in the passage outside the school toilet. “This, the parents and the Hindutva activist twisted into something perverse. They claimed cameras have been set up inside the toilet. Which is untrue,” Sawant said. The parents objected to the cameras and the school management immediately agreed to remove them.
Later, the group also raised issues over the prayer mentioned in the school calendar. This prayer, according to the Talegaon MIDC police, has no mention of any specific religion. “It only mentions the words, ‘Dear Lord’,” Sawant said. The Hindutva group specifically harped on this and wanted that prayer to be removed from the school book, which the management said they would look into.
But as the mob was leaving the school, they saw Reid at the school gate. The mob attacked him and chanted “Har Har Mahadev” slogans. In the viral video, Reid’s clothes are seen torn. Neither Ried nor the DY Patil school management has approached the police with a complaint, Sawant said. The Wire tried contacting the school for their comment and the story will be updated if a response is received.
Sawant said that the parents, along with the Bajrang Dal activists, visited the police station with a formal complaint after the attack. “We have not converted their complaint into an FIR. On visiting the school, and looking at the evidence, it is clear that Ried was targeted because of his Christian identity. There is no evidence pointing to the allegation that he was involved in religious conversion or sexual harassment of girl children, as alleged in the complaint submitted to the police,” Sawant said.