Criminal case filed in India after school makes Dalit pupils clean toilets


Tamil Nadu: Police officials in southern India’s Tamil Nadu are looking for school officials, including the principal, who allegedly forced six children from a marginalised community to clean a toilet in the premises, leading one of them to contract a mosquito-borne viral infection.

A criminal case has been filed by the parent of one of the school students who learnt about the headmistress’s actions after her son contracted dengue and had to be hospitalised.

“When I asked him how he got dengue, my son said he was bitten by mosquitos when he handled bleaching powder and cleaned the toilet daily,” the mother S Jayanthi said.

She said that the students were cleaning the school washrooms for six months now, reported The Times of India newspaper.

Her son is a student in fifth grade of the government school in Tamil Nadu’s Erode district. The complaint against the school official was filed on Wednesday.

Ms Jayanthi said that headmistress Geetha Rani singled out students from the oppressed scheduled caste — a minority section in India’s contentious caste system — to clean the toilets in the school, reported Indian news channel NDTV.

Even though India outlawed untouchability after independence from the British rule in 1955 and successive governments introduced measures of affirmative action, the people from the Dalit community remain targets of discrimination and abuse throughout the country.

In India, crimes against Dalits increased by 9.4 per cent in 2020, marking a steep rise from 45,961 cases in 2019 to 50,291 in 2020, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau.

Ms Rani is now absconding and has not been arrested, police officials said. She was also suspended from her position on Thursday.

Three other students from the fourth grade and another from first grade were also asked to clean the school toilets, Ms Jayanthi said, adding that they were doing it.

The incident came to light also after a parent saw the students coming out of the school’s washroom with sticks and mugs.

“When asked, they said they cleaned the toilet, and that the headmistress asked them to do it. 40 children study in that class, and most of them are our scheduled castes children. She has asked only our children to do this,” Ms Jayathi said, according to the report.

Police officials have registered a criminal complaint against the top school official under India’s Juvenile Justice Act in addition to another case under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The police have now formed special teams to arrest her and an investigation is on, an official said.

She will be nabbed at the earliest, the police said.

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