|The Manteswar school. Picture by Dipankar Chatterjee
Burdwan, July 22: A Class VIII boy drank pesticide after he was branded a thief in school, beaten up and asked by the headmaster not to come back.
Joydeep Dhara (name changed) has survived, but does not have the nerve to return to his classroom.
Five Class XII students went to the headmaster after Joydeep had been told to get out, to say he couldn’t have stolen his classmate’s sunglasses, but in vain.
Joydeep, who walks with a limp since being affected by polio as a child, said two teachers called him to the staff room and accused him of stealing Rajeswar Chakraborty’s shades. “I repeatedly denied the charge, but the teachers remained unfazed,” the 15-year-old son of a labourer said.
Prabodh Chandra Saha, the headmaster of Manteswar Sagarbala Sarbarthasadhak Vidyalaya, called him to his office during a break. “He slapped me repeatedly and beat me with a cane. Then he asked me to go home, saying I won’t be able to study in the school anymore,” said Joydeep.
He consumed poison that night. Foaming at the mouth, the boy was taken to Burdwan Medical College and Hospital, from where he returned home four days later.
“He’s ashamed to step out of home. He keeps telling me that he doesn’t want to live any more,” said Joydeep’s father Hutashan. “I went to the headmaster but he refused to listen to me. He said he had proof that my son had stolen the glasses,” Hutashan added.
Saha made light of the charges against him. He denied asking Joydeep not to attend school and claimed ignorance about his suicide bid.
Joydeep has been coming to school regularly, the headmaster insisted. “It was a minor incident and the matter has been sorted out. The boy is attending classes.”
The CPM students’ wing, the SFI, has called a strike in the school, around 145km from Calcutta, tomorrow. Hutashan had approached the union.
“We spoke to many students, including Joydeep’s classmates, and concluded that he could in no way be linked to the theft. On July 18, we went to the headmaster, demanding punishment against the teachers and the cost of Joydeep’s treatment. But he refused to accept the deputation,” said Sumit Chakraborty, the president of the SFI’s Manteswar local committee.
The Class XII boys who supported Joydeep had also been asked not to come to school.
Chakraborty accused the headmaster of threatening the boys with not allowing them to appear in HS.
Saha said parents of three of the five have already apologised. “I’ve asked guardians of the two other students to meet me on Tuesday. The boys can attend school from tomorrow.”