A private tutor has been caught on camera punching and kicking a three-year-old boy behind closed doors in a Lake Town flat after asking his mother to wait outside while she “persuaded the naughty child” to study.
The footage shows tutor Puja Singh holding the child upside down, hurling him on a mattress and pummelling him in between rummaging through the closets, completely unaware that a CCTV camera just above the bed was capturing her every move.
The boy’s mother was alerted by his cries but couldn’t get in because the newly appointed tutor had locked the door from inside. She switched on the CCTV monitor in the other room to witness live the horror being played out inside.
The boy’s parents lodged a complaint at Lake Town police station on Wednesday morning but Puja couldn’t be traced because the address she had given while being interviewed for the job doesn’t exist. The incident had occurred the previous afternoon.
According to the boy’s mother, Puja had requested that she be allowed some time with the boy inside the room so that she could convince him to study. The boy had recently started going to a south Calcutta school and his parents apparently decided to hire a private tutor because he was naughty, as most children of that age are, and had been refusing to study.
“The first two days my son wouldn’t sit with his tutor. On Tuesday, she asked me to wait outside while she tried persuading him to study. So I stepped out,” the mother recounted.
Minutes later, thanks to the CCTV camera that was installed a year ago after a series of alleged thefts in the house, the mother found out just how her son’s tutor was “persuading” him to study.
Doctors confirmed after a check-up in a hospital on Wednesday that the child didn’t have any major injury. Psychiatrist Jai Ranjan Ram said the child would have been traumatised, though. “If you are hitting a child, then you are giving sanctity to the idea that it is okay to be violent when angry. The child may then grow up to be physically abusive towards others and a vicious cycle of abuse may continue.”
Ram said the boy who was assaulted would need careful handling to get over the trauma. “It depends on how well the parents and teachers manage to keep him in surroundings filled with affection and care. Studies need to be reintroduced gradually in an environment where he feels safe. The parents would need to cushion him from the traumatic memories and relieve him of it.”
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has sought a report on the incident from the women and child welfare department.
The footage of Puja assaulting the boy for 18-odd minutes is stomach-churning. At one point, she is shown wrapping her right arm around the boy’s neck, lifting him and slamming him against the mattress. She sits on the bed, adjusts her dupatta, gets up again and appears to try gagging the boy. A bout of frenzied slapping follows.
The camera catches Puja sitting on the bed again and saying something, all the while wagging a finger at the child. The next frame shows her going towards the door, possibly because the child’s mother was by then knocking on it after hearing her son cry.
Puja opens the door and appears to speak to someone before slamming it shut. She turns on the boy again, kicking him twice on the chest and shouting at him. She sits him down on the bed with his books and continues hitting him on the head with something.
“I was trembling and started banging on the door. When Puja opened the door, I confronted her. First she denied what had happened but when I showed her the footage, she did not have a reply,” recounted the boy’s mother.
Puja’s husband allegedly warned the family later against going to the police.
Some of the first reactions to the footage once ABP Ananda opened its phone lines to viewers proved that proclivity for violence isn’t a disease restricted to the tutor who might need to see a shrink. A woman who had called the channel suggested as punishment “taking away the woman’s right to become a mother”. A man spoke about parading her on the road with a rope around her waist so that people could do to her what she did to the boy.
While neither politics nor lack of jobs had anything to do with the violence captured on CCTV, Trinamul somehow got dragged into the episode.
A senior Trinamul leader had allegedly called up a friend of the child’s family on Tuesday evening and asked him to dissuade the parents from lodging a police complaint against the tutor as her husband was associated with the party.
“The leader wanted the parents to be told that if they agreed to not lodge a police complaint, he would personally punish the tutor in front of them,” a source in Trinamul said from Lake Town.
The family stays in a second-floor apartment on Dakshindari Road in Lake Town. All four rooms of the apartment have had CCTV cameras for a year. “We installed them after a rash of thefts a year ago,” the child’s father said.
On Wednesday evening, the child was in his parents’ bedroom, busy playing with his father’s mobile phones and a toy gifted by his parents. “He has been running a fever since yesterday. The whole of yesterday, he was so scared that he couldn’t speak. He found his voice only today,” his mother said.
A few years ago, Puja had tutored the boy’s elder sister for a few months. Puja was told her services were no longer required after the girl showed reluctance in taking lessons from her. “We contacted Puja again because our son’s teachers had started saying that he was naughty and not following his lessons. Since no other teacher was available, we got her,” said the boy’s father, a businessman.