Kolkata: In a clear case of an incident reminiscent of a sequence in the Aamir Khan-starrer 3idiots, Sunirmal Chakraborty, the principal of La Martiniere School for Boys told Rouvanjit Rawla on February 12: “You have 16 minutes to find the culprit and you will be let off scot-free.”
In those 16 minutes, 13-year-old Rouvanjit was told to come up with the name of the boy who burst two crackers inside a classroom, reports The Indian Express.
Rouvanjit was caned by the principal on February 8 for bunking class, Rouvanjit failed to meet the deadline. He returned home and hanged himself.
Chakraborty admits he caned Rouvanjit, a Class VIII student, and apologised on Tuesday, saying he would never cane another student. But he was clear “I am not going to resign from office”.
“Why should I resign? I am a teacher, not a criminal. I don't think there is any association between my caning the child and his death.”
Chakraborty said he had been making “judicious use” of the cane to discipline students. “I have made judicious use of it in the past, only to express my pain that a child's behaviour caused to me.”
Piecing together the sequence of events that led to Rouvanjit's death, The Indian Express spoke to several people including teachers, guardians and students of the prestigious Kolkata school and found that Rouvanjit was under great pressure between February 8, the day he was caned, and February 12, the day he allegedly took his own life.
On February 8, Rouvanjit was caned for bunking class. He and his two friends hid in a toilet after saying they had to hand something to a teacher. They did not attend one class.
“I punished this child on February 8. He did not come to school on February 9, 10 and 11. On February 12, Principal said you have 16 minutes to find the culprit... Rouvanjit failed, killed himself he came back to play a bigger prank. That day I did not scold or rebuke him. I said you have 16 minutes to find the culprit and you will be let off scot-free,” Chakraborty said.
Rouvanjit returned to his class room but the teacher did not let him enter. He stood outside and cried. Minutes after he finally entered the class room, the final bell for the day rang. He was not able to meet the deadline the principal had set. “The school was left with very little choice to discipline students. Tomorrow if boys bring a stink bomb and burst it in class, how are we supposed to tackle the situation?” Chakraborty asked.
Ashok Agarwal, member of the inquiry committee of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights who conducted a three-day probe, said: “In last two periods on February 12, the child was harassed, totally condemned by teachers and the principal. He denied the allegation and said he did not burst crackers. He was crying. He waited outside the class room but the teacher did not let him enter.”
Agarwal said Rouvanjit told a teacher, L G Gunion, not to question him about the crackers as he was very disturbed.
Family members said Rouvanjit called his father on phone at 1 pm and tried to say something.
Around 2.30 pm, he allegedly hanged himself. Only when his father found his diaries and other writings, the family got to know why Rouvanjit did not want to go to school.
Asked whether the incident had affected the image of the school which was established in 1836, school authorities said it had definitely taken a beating. But principal Chakraborty said the school would learn from its “mistakes”.