It was like any other morning assembly at the Servite Matriculation School, a Christian minority institution in Trichy on Friday. The school had reopened only a day after Deepavali and students were assembled for morning prayers. Things, however, broke pattern when the headmistress allegedly asked how many students had burst crackers that week of the festival. All but seven hands reportedly went up.
What followed next, according to the allegations made by parents, was a prize distribution ceremony for students who refrained from lighting fireworks. Those who admitted to doing it were made to bow their heads down and seek an apology from god. One of the parents has further alleged that the Physical Education teacher hit his daughter's palms with a scale because she wore mehendi on them.
"When my son told me what happened, I was appalled," says 47-year-old Sethuraman, a local businessman whose seven-year-old child, Pon Rishikesan, is one of the students who was pulled up at the assembly. Following this he was even allegedly made to do five sit-ups as punishment for bursting crackers. "When we heard about this, some of the parents and I got very upset and went to the school for answers. But the headmistress there claimed that she was only following orders from the Chief Education Officer and refused to apologise for what happened," he alleges.
Angered by the school's response some parents then went to the Palakkarai police station under whose jurisdiction the school falls to lodge a complaint. The station has issued a Community Service Register to the complainants.
"We put our children in this school because it is close to our home. But they are trying to slowly brainwash the children and turn them against their own religion, " alleges Sethuraman. "Next year, my son won't want to burst crackers because of this incident and we highly doubt there were any orders from the Chief Education Officer regarding this," he claims.
The investigation official, however, told TNM that the Chief Education Officer had forwarded instructions given by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to the school. "We are conducting an inquiry into the issue. We are also consulting our legal officer about this issue," he told TNM. "An FIR has not been filed yet. We will finish our inquiries and take the necessary steps," he added.
TNM attempted to contact school authorities but they were not available for comment.