Afsal Rahman, the school’s Urdu teacher, was the Muslim Youth League's district vice-president and State treasurer of the Muslim Students Federation.

Kerala teacher accused of sexual harassment by 19 students gets anticipatory bail
news Crime Thursday, February 07, 2019 - 18:39

A teacher in Kerala’s Malappuram who has been accused of sexual harassment by 19 minor students at his school was granted anticipatory bail by the High Court last week. The accused, who had been absconding following the crime, appeared before the Malappuram police after securing anticipatory bail.  

On November 24, 2018, a public outcry by students of an aided school in Malappuram led to the suspension of their teacher, who was accused of sexually harassing 19 students. Afsal Rahman, Urdu teacher and National Service Scheme (NSS) co-ordinator was first called out by a student from another school, after she attended an NSS symposium in November. She, along with her kin initially complained to the principal who reportedly took no action then. 

However, when this incident reached the ears of the rest of the school, 50 other students came forward to file a written complaint alleging sexual abuse by the teacher, who was a member of the Muslim Youth League and had been serving as its district Vice President. The students formed a parliament and signed the complaint to get the accused teacher suspended. They even threatened to boycott classes if the management failed to do so. It was following this that the school authorities informed the police and the Child Protection Unit. The accused was then suspended from the school for 15 days and he later went absconding when a police case was filed. 

Post his suspension, several IUML workers began accusing the principal, KG Prasad, of intentionally trapping the accused. Denying claims that the incident was politically motivated, Prasad's daughter wrote a post on Facebook on November 28 explaining what had happened. 

“On the morning of November 24, my father, the headmaster of (name withheld*) witnessed protests by students against the accused teacher. There were no political parties involved then. The unanimous demand of the students was that the accused teacher be kicked out. However, when the headmaster said that no complaint has yet been filed against the accused teacher, the students formed a parliament and submitted over 50 signatures supporting the ouster. It is the head of department’s duty to inform the police if a minor (below 18 years age) submits a complaint. The law demands it. Otherwise, he/she can be booked for attempting to protect the accused and even lose their job,” the post read.   

On December 5, two POCSO cases were registered in the Malappuram district police station, based on the complaint by three students of the school. 

“The cases were registered against Afsal Rahman under sections 9 and 10 (Aggravated sexual assault) of the POCSO act,” SI Mohammad Rafeek who led the investigation told TNM.

The anticipatory bail granted to the accused in a POCSO case has come as a shock to Child Welfare Authorities. 

Speaking to TNM, Malappuram Child Welfare Committee co-ordinator Anwar Karakkadan said, “The sections under which Afsal was charged were not those which involved penetrative assault (which are the most serious of sexual offences under POCSO). This could possibly explain how he could secure a bail in the first place.” 

Several students withdraw complaint, political pressure suspected 

An alumnus of the school and a worker of DYFI, youth wing of CPI(M), Ramshad who had protested against the school's indifference also pointed out that several students had withdrawn their complaints in the subsequent days, possibly due to political pressure. 

“Out the 19 complainants, many of the girls are from families associated with the Indian Union Muslim league. There could have been political pressure on these families to withdraw the petition. In other cases, families have been convinced that the incident could affect the future of the girls. Currently, only three of the complainants have braved the pressure and stood their ground. However, they are unwilling to speak to the media,” he said. 

The accused teacher joined the school in 2012 after a special request from the Education Department. The suspension term of 15 days given by the school following the protest has ended. However, the POCSO case against him is ongoing.