New Delhi Authorities in the central Indian state of Uttar Pradesh closed a private school after a video clip of a teacher asking her students to slap a fellow Muslim went viral, sparking outrage. The state police registered a case against the teacher, identified as Tripta Tyagi, as the video of the incident on 24 August went viral online.
The scandal broke out at a time of growing tension between India’s Hindu-dominated population and its large Muslim minority.
The video, which was verified by the police, shows Tyagi asking her students to slap their seven-year-old Muslim classmate. At least three students come up to their fellow Muslim one by one and beat him up.
“Why are you hitting him so lightly? Hit him harder,” the teacher is heard saying to one of the children as the Muslim boy stands crying.
She said to another student: “Hit him on the back.”
Satyanarayan Prajapat, a senior police officer in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh state, said the teacher told the students to beat the boy “because he didn’t remember the multiplication tables”.
But the teacher also mentioned the boy’s religion, according to Prajapat.
The teacher from Neha Public School admitted that she made a “mistake” by asking other students to hit the boy because she is disabled and cannot do it herself, but also defended her actions as necessary discipline.
“This was not my intention,” Tyagi told India’s NDTV news network. “I admit my mistake, but this unnecessarily turned into a big issue.” “I am not ashamed. I have served the people of this village as a teacher. They are all with me.”
The parents of the Muslim student removed their son from school and reported the incident to the police, but they did not press charges against the teacher.
The boy’s father told Indian news networks, “My seven-year-old was tortured for an hour or two. He’s scared. This is not a Hindu-Muslim case. We want the law to take its own course.”
Many politicians accused India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of creating an atmosphere conducive to the incident.
Rahul Gandhi, leader of the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, accused the teacher of “planting the poison of discrimination in the minds of innocent children”.
“This is the same kerosene spread by the Bharatiya Janata Party that has set fire to every corner of India,” Gandhi wrote in a social media post.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has long said it does not discriminate against the country’s more than 200 million Muslims.
In June, during a visit to the US, Modi told reporters that there was “absolutely no room for discrimination” in India.
Meanwhile, government officials in Uttar Pradesh state said the school was closed because it did not meet the Ministry of Education’s “standards” and all students were to be transferred to other schools.