Patha Bhavan students in their open-air class. File picture
Santiniketan, July 10: Visva-Bharati, in a letter to governor M.K. Narayanan, today tried to draw a distinction between a child being “forced” to lick her own urine and being “directed” to do so.
The governor had yesterday asked for details on the case of a Class V girl in Patha Bhavan being told to lick her own urine as punishment for wetting her hostel bed on July 7.
An official of the varsity, which is famous as a seat of culture and the arts, said: “The authorities in their reply have said the girl was directed to lick her urine and was not forced to do so.”
This was unlikely to cut any ice with the governor, he said. “Even if it was a direction, it was wrong of the warden to do so. The authorities should not try and defend the warden.”
Sources said the letter to the governor was sent from the vice-chancellor’s office.
Today, hostel warden Uma Poddar was charged under Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act. The charge under the more stringent law came a day after the additional chief judicial magistrate’s court criticised the district administration for the mildness of the charges slapped against Poddar.
Section 23 says punishment for cruelty to juveniles or children “shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or a fine, or both”. The warden had initially been charged with wrongful detention, negligence and for acting in a manner that leads to the spread of infectious diseases.
Rishikesh Meena, the Birbhum superintendent of police, said: “This is a stronger charge and we hope we are moving closer to providing the family with some justice.”
This evening, students, alumni and guardians of Visva-Bharati took out a candle-light march to protest the “torture” of the schoolgirl.
“The authorities should stand by the guardians on humanitarian grounds. Surprisingly, they arrested them on a complaint by the varsity authorities. In the history of Tagore’s Santiniketan, this is an unprecedented step,” said Manisha Banerjee, the vice-president of the Visva-Bharati Alumni Association.
“The incident has made it clear what happens inside the hostels. Where a little girl is forced to lick urine, how can we put our children there?” asked Biswanath Dey, one of the guardians.