New Delhi — Authorities in central India’s Uttar Pradesh state have shut down a private school after video of a teacher asking her students to slap their Muslim classmate went viral and sparked outrage. The state police registered a case against the teacher, identified as Tripta Tyagi, as the video of the August 24 incident spread online.
The scandal erupted at a time of growing tension between India’s predominantly Hindu population and its large Muslim minority.
The video, which was verified by police, shows Tyagi telling her students to slap their seven-year-old Muslim classmate. At least three students come up to the Muslim classmate one by one and hit him.
“Why are you hitting him so lightly? Hit him harder,” the teacher is heard telling one child as the Muslim boy stands crying.
“Hit him on the back,” she tells another student.
Satyanarayan Prajapat, a senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district, said the teacher told students to hit the boy “for not remembering his times tables.”
But the teacher also mentioned the boy’s religion, according to Prajapat.
The teacher from the Neha Public School admitted she’d made a “mistake” by asking other students to hit the boy as she is disabled and couldn’t do it herself, but she also defended her actions as necessary discipline.
“This wasn’t my intention. I am accepting my mistake, but this was unnecessarily turned into a big issue,” Tyagi told India’s NDTV news network. “I am not ashamed. I have served the people of this village as a teacher. They all are with me.”
The Muslim student’s parents took their son out of the school and reported the incident to the police, but they were not pressing charges against the teacher.
“My seven-year-old was tortured for an hour or two. He is scared. This is not a Hindu-Muslim issue. We want the law to take its own course,” the boy’s father told Indian news networks.
Several politicians accused India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of creating an atmosphere in which the incident was able to take place.
Rahul Gandhi, senior leader of the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, accused the teacher of “sowing the poison of discrimination in the minds of innocent children.”
“This is the same kerosene spread by BJP which has set every corner of India on fire,” Gandhi wrote in a social media post.
The BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has consistently said it does not discriminate against the country’s more than 200 million Muslims.
In June, during a visit to the U.S., Modi told journalists there was “absolutely no space for discrimination” in India.
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh government officials said the school was being shut as it did not meet the education department’s “criteria,” with all students set to be transferred to other schools.