A class 11 student of Delhi Public School, Kalyanpur in Kanpur district of Uttar Pradesh, attempted suicide after being repeatedly humiliated by school teachers and the principal, who had branded him a “terrorist”. The boy is a Muslim. On the night of September 23, the student was admitted in a critical condition at a local hospital after attempting suicide by consuming sleeping pills and phenyl at his Swaroop Nagar residence.
In a note written before attempting suicide, the student wrote about the discrimination he experienced at the hands of his school teachers and principal.
In his note, the student urged UP chief minister Adityanath to act on the matter and not let the four teachers and the principal, who he says pushed him into taking the extreme step, go unpunished. On regaining consciousness at the hospital, he appealed to Adityanath, “Chief minister sir, I am not a terrorist but a student.”
The student said that despite his being an ordinary student who just wants to acquire education and become a scientist like former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, his teachers viewed him with suspicion as if he was a terrorist. “My bag is searched everyday. I am made to sit in the last row in my class. If I ask anything, the teacher expels me from the class. Because of such conduct of the teachers, the other students also maintain a distance from me,” he said.
The boy, whose father hails from Hapur and has a property and building material business, complained that apart from the actions of the teachers, the words with which they sought to project him as a terrorist had also hurt him. He accused them of verbally targeting and isolating him in school by telling other children not to speak to him.
“I joined the school two months back. No one talked to me because teachers asked them not to. Teachers and students taunted me,” he has been quoted by the local media as saying. The boy’s mother told journalists that he was depressed because his bag was searched everyday as the school authorities believed he might be carrying a gun.
The district police, who has registered a case under Section 305 of the Indian Penal Code for abetment of suicide of a child, are awaiting the report of a probe before initiating follow up action against the accused teachers and the principal.
Meanwhile, the police have learnt that the boy’s mother was called to the school by his class teacher on September 14 and told that he was not concentrating on his studies. After this, his mother scolded him in front of the class. This teachers used this as an excuse to to deliberately insult the boy, the family has alleged, and subsequently accused him of carrying a gun to the school and “spoiling its atmosphere”.
It is alleged that the boy’s “status” was also called into question in class. As the boy felt insulted, he asked his maternal aunt to speak to the school authorities, but nothing came of it, which led the boy to take the matters into his own hands.
Many senior school administrators have said that such a situation could have been handled better by the boy’s school had the administration been more sensitive.
No compromise on zero tolerance
When in April this year a four-year-old boy, who had just secured admission in nursery in a premier school in Ghaziabad, a satellite township of New Delhi, refused to sit next to another boy saying, “main isskay saath nahin baithoonga, yeh Musalmaan hai” (I will not sit with him, he is a Muslim), the matter was immediately reported by the teacher to the principal, who summoned the boy’s parents to counsel them.
Talking to The Wire, the school principal, who has headed various schools in Delhi and Ghaziabad for over 40 years, said, “The way to go about such instances is to show zero tolerance towards them”.
She said when it comes to the conduct of teachers and staff, the message should be direct and clear that any kind of discrimination would be dealt with firmly and if any staff member is found preaching hatred, he or she would be immediately asked to leave.
The principal added that most students bring with them the views they see their parents or family members subscribing to. “However, in the case of a child, if he or she is differentiating with fellow students, it is the job of the school to correct his view”.
Counselling, celebration of all festivals can improve understanding
“Apart from specialised counselling,” the principal said, “celebrating all the festivals and informing students about various religions increases their acceptability and improves their overall outlook. So when there is Eid, we call parents of all the Muslim students for a cultural programme in which our students present musical programmes and skits based on Islamic history and the holy Quran. Similarly, festivals related to other religions are also celebrated to improve the understanding about them.”
As to whether teachers and staff are screened for harbouring “radical views” prior to their appointment, the principal said that is not the case and only their academic qualifications are considered. “But they are firmly told that any digression from the laid norms would invite action.”