Corporal Punishment Raises It’s Head

Posted on June 12, 2010 in Society

Radhika Ghose:

In another case of Denied Justice, the West Bengal Education Ministry is the one failing to act. The case is a 4 month old incident in which Rouvanjit Rawla an eight standard student from the prestigious La Martiniere School for Boys, Kolkata, committed suicide after a month of being subject to Corporal Punishment, from the Principal and three other teachers.

Corporal Punishment : A definition

There is a lot of speculation and debate regarding what falls under the purview of Corporal Punishment and that is one of the main reasons it remains a problem in India today. Peter Newell, Coordinator, Global Initiative to End all Forms of Corporal Punishment of Children says, “all physical abuse of children administered in the context of punishment or control is Corporal Punishment.”

I belive in that definition, and decided to open my article with that as I have realized that the more elaborate such definitions tend to be, the thinner the line is to distinguish between what is and isn’t Corporal Punishment. As a result no central legislation gets passed in order to correct it.

We think these “social evils”  lie in the fringes of society.

In rural, remote, even “unheard of” village schools, whilst others raise the bar to Government schools. Schools where the teachers belong to a category which has a land-sea difference from the schools we go to. Our children are meant to be protected within the walls of a school, where we are assured they will be looked after as if they are in a “second home”. Is this really their definition of looking after our children?  There have been several cases of Corporal Punishment over the years, to prove this wrong. Despite the Ban passed by the Central Government, against Corporal Punishment in 2000 — 8, 9; and now 10 years later this continues. With no punishment against the perpetrators.

Are we as citizens of the country, goiong to sit back and watch the future of the country be destroyed within the vary walls of the institutions that are meant to protect them?

The Incident

Kolkata’s La Martiniere School for Boys, has shown that this is not the case. Definitely one of the most prestigious schools in the country, the school teachers attempted to hush up an incident, in which Corporal Punishment led to the death, a suicide of a standard 8 student, Rouvanjit Rawla.

4 months later, after an ordeal of questioning the Principal, has finally admitted to having canned the student, days before he committed suicide. The Math, English and some other teachers were also responsible for harassing him for almost a month before he finally made this drastic move to “save himself” from the humiliating treatment.

Rouvan Rawla, a victim of corporal punishment

The official report is yet to be submitted, but people say that the Principal is likely to get away with a warning. I truly hope this isn’t doesn’t happen, and as a concerned body of this nation, we must make sure that this doesn’t happen. The person responsible for a crime like Corporal Punishment, which ends in a student’s suicide, should not only accept the responsibility, but perhaps resign from the post. (As drastic as that sounds I belive all the teachers who have his blood on their hands should resign on their own or be forced to. Whichever they prefer)

A team from National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has visited the school, and after their inverstigation are to submit a report on Monday, the 15th of June. It is said that since they are a statutory body, their report will have to be accepted and followed by the administration. But since it took 4 months for this case to finally come to light, I have my apprehensions.

There have been several reactions to the mis – handling of the case, and the appaling nature of the incident itself.

Suhel Seth on twitter this morning : La Martiniere. Calcutta has been dragged into the mud only because all of us abrogated our rights : the damn Board, the Bishop, the Old Boys. The only way La Martiniere can regain its glory is by getting rid of the Bishop and putting him where he belongs : In Church, not the school.

(The Bishop was confessed to by the Principal, regarding the caning of Rouvanjit, but the Bishop didn’t come forward and report this incident.)

Lali Chattoraj Sengupta shared his views on the Facebook Group, “Rouvan Rawla you still live with us in our memories. RIP”, “ It is appalling what has happened and presumably gone on for a long time in the name of discipline in LMB. It is even more appalling, that the school refuses to take action. Surely the teachers/board of governors should take note and decide on some action to ensure this does not happen again, or are they putty in the hands of the power brokers? While corporal punishment did go on in schools earlier and many of us, especially in other boys schools, remember being caned etc, without much visible effect. But kids these days are different and are exposed to a lot more things, much more starkly, than we were – the competition is different too, so we cannot judge them and us by the same yardstick. Please back the movement to put an end to this so that our own children do not face the same fate.”

Another Old Boy of the school, Avirup Sen shared “ i was a proud ex student of this school and couldn’t tolerate my school’s name being tarnished…but nw i feel embarrassed to tell people I belonged to this school..I spent 13 yrs in this school(L.N to class 10) before gettin rustigated under unreasonable grounds…my rustication had no justification…
but now i have started hating the principal after i heard about Rouvan….the principal in any way had no right to take someone’s life…..
to some extent we ourselves are responsible for not taking any action against the principle…we (the students and the ex-students) have given him this scope ..we should all stand up and support Rouvan’s family…..the principal has to face dire consequences…he should be either arrested or sent to a rehab..it’s for our betterment….before the school’s name goes down the drain…we love the school and won’t let the school’s name being tarnished….in order to do this, “WE” have to remove this principal…R.I.P Rouvan..Our deepest condolence to your family…”

Further News

Since we are discussing La Martiniers school, another very shocking report came to light through the enquiry. Though this is not related to Corporal Punishment, it highlights the status of the teachers that belong to the elite, prestigious schools of our society.

A student was failed in class, because he would not give the professor a laptop!

West Bengal

Interestingly West Bengal is among the 9 states of the Country which have a “ban” on Corporal Punishments.

In 2008, the deaths of three children, one in November, and two in 2004 whose cases had recently come into the light, prompted a division bench of the Calcutta High Court headed by Justice A K Mathur declared “corporal punishment illegal and order of the government to issue a notification stating that the ‘stern action’ would be taken against teachers found guilty of torturing students.” However there have been various reports to show the number of cases of Corporal Punishment in schools across the State is yet to decrease.

Legislation

As recently as March 2010, the Assamese Government has prepared a Bill to safeguard their students against Corporal Punishment. The Assam Corporal Punishment for Educational Institutions Bill was to be placed before the Assam assembly during the March 2010 budget session.

Though I must add here, that I have not found the legal government document, verifying this bill as an act, I am citing it here as an example of a State governments attempt to curb Corporal Punishment. It is also important to keep in mind that reports declared that 99.5% of Assamese students were victims of Corporal Punishment. However I do not believe the measures are drastic and should be ideally taken up by the Centre as a punishment to implement across the country.

Under this Bill the teachers can be prosecuted on a criminal charge, suspended from service, and even face termination of service if found guilty of having indulged in Corporal Punishment.

Conclusion

This incident reflects an extremely poor image of not only the school, but the society we live in today. La Martiniers school’s name has been tarnished forever, and there will be more cases unless we put an end to it. Whether we are children, students in a class, any class no matter how “small or big”, parents or teachers who are aware of such incidents happening within any school, please remember you could be saving a child’s life by standing against it. Do not let another child face the same “punishment” that Rouvanjit had to go through, and the terrible ordeal his family will now face.

We can never judge from the outside, the effects, Corporal Punishment will have on a child. Please save the Children!

Let us not let this case remain as it stands today, and help Rouvanjit’s family in their fight for Justice.

[Update: When two of the school board members sought an internal probe, they were removed from their post. Click here to read the full update. O’Brien and David had also demanded “immediate action” against Sanjay Smart, the teacher accused of demanding a laptop as bribe for promoting Class IV student Srijan Banerjee. The school took no action against Smart, who was arrested on May 17 and is now in judicial custody till June 14. Click here to read more on this.]

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