On 15 April, a teacher at the private coaching center in Srinagar thrashed a student who seemed to try hard to comprehend why he was being subjected to the abuse. If it wasn’t for the video going viral on social media, the incident would have gone unnoticed.
A witty student captured the boy’s ordeal on video, not only exposing the abuse of students at Hope Classes in Srinagar’s Parraypora, a prominent hub of tuition seekers. The video as expected drew widespread anger from social media users who called for action against the said teacher.
The teacher in the video, identified as Fayaz Ahmad Wagay, is also on the institute’s board of directors. He was seen repeatedly slapping a young boy, whose mask also comes off as the intensity of the slaps increase, as he kept demanding to know: “Permission mangni thi? (Did you seek permission?).
Whatever the student needed permission for, the abuse simply isn’t justifiable.
Among the ones to highlight and demand action against the act was Jammu and Kashmir Students Association spokesperson, Nasir Kheuhami, who has been at the forefront of highlighting issues faced by Kashmiri students across India.
Kheuhami took to Twitter to condemn the incident. “This Brutality by Fayaz Ahmad Zewali who happens to teach chemistry at Hope classes Parraypora is unacceptable. How can a teacher be abusive like this? This is insane,” he tweeted, requesting the Srinagar Mayor and District Magistrate to take action.
Talking to The Kashmir Walla, Kheuhami termed the incident as “barbaric”. “How can a teacher beat a young student like this, it will dent his confidence like anything,” he said.
Another Twitter user known for her tweets and calling out rot in the society said, “Legal action must be taken against this man for thrashing a young student. This is illegal and must stop. Great job whoever took this video. This is exactly how fist-wielding “teachers” should be brought to account.”
Afaaq Sayed, a member of the prominent non-profit Social Reforms Organization, too, condemned the teacher’s act. “Corporal Punishment in Education is a criminal offence under International Law. It demonstrates quackery in Education wherein some violent people are assigned wrong jobs of imparting education to kids,” he wrote on Facebook. “It also demonstrates how unregulated our Education sector is. Such people should be kept under social check.”
As soon as the cries for action grew, the Srinagar Administration swung into action and took suo-motu cognisance of the incident. Later, the police arrested the teacher on charges of corporal punishment. “He is booked and an FIR number 54 of 2021 has been registered against him,” SHO police station Saddar, Rayees Ahmad was quoted as saying by Greater Kashmir. Wagay was later released on bail.
The incident, however, continued to stir debate; in what can only be an indictment of the Kashmir society at large, many tried to justify the teacher’s actions. “God knows what he was going through mentally that he had to take such a step. We are living in Kashmir, which is nothing hell at present, every citizen of Kashmir is going through psychological stress. Be it due to Covid, due to Kashmir issue or due to some personal reasons,” a user Arsalan Bhat wrote on Facebook in Wagay’s defence. “We are talking [about] the mental trauma of that student, but what [about] the mental trauma of the teacher?? What if he harms himself [because] of the abusive social media trail (sic) he faced?”
If hiding behind the conflict wasn’t enough, some even went further and invoked religion to justify the teacher’s abusive behaviour. “A teacher has higher status in Islam than one’s parents, so he has more rights over the students, and there is a scope for corporal punishment to students in Islam too,” Waqas Khan, a resident of downtown Srinagar who also runs a Darsgah, told The Kashmir Walla. “While the teacher crossed a line, one should look into why he did so, it could be that he crossed a line.”
However, Nazir Gillo, a teacher by profession, differed. “Disciplining a child is fine but it shouldn’t be at the cost of children’s honor and esteem in the class, especially in front of his friends and classmates.”
Gillo, who teaches at a government school, said that corporal punishment was not only unethical but also counterproductive as it filled children with aggression. “I am strongly against physical punishment and teachers should avoid it by all means. We can achieve far more results in disciplining children through counseling and guidance than corporal punishment,” he said. “But unfortunately, we have little or completely lack this system of counseling and guidance cells in schools.”
The government, he said, is making efforts but “we need a radical overhaul to transform this system.”
Corporal punishment in educational institutes, particularly towards younger children, is prevalent as a practice across Kashmir and even the larger South Asian subcontinent. It has societal approval and ranks very low on the list of the government’s priorities.
However, with the advent of social media and the Supreme Court guidelines things have become easier for students. In incidents like the Parraypora coaching institute and the support, it garnered from some sections of society it can only be said that there is a long way to go to discipline such teachers so that young students don’t have to carry the mental trauma throughout their lives.