On September 23, a Dalit student at a Hyderabad school was allegedly made to strip by her class teacher, accusing her of visiting the restroom to copy in her exam, following which her parents had filed a police complaint.

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news Controversy Wednesday, December 15, 2021 - 18:32

The family of a minor Dalit girl who was allegedly made to strip by her teacher at a Hyderabad school in September has been receiving calls from a strange man, who has been forcing them to drop the case and has even offered them a bribe of Rs 3 lakh. The St Andrews School, where the girl studies, however, claims that the man is not associated with them. Suspecting the girl of copying in an exam, the teacher put her through the humiliation of a strip search allegedly in the presence of a school janitor. The family has however alleged that there were previous instances of caste discrimination and the teacher accusing the student of copying was an excuse to harass her.

When the man, Srikanth Kumar Goud, first contacted the family in late November, he posed as a policeman. He later changed it to police informer and then to ‘mediator’ on behalf of a school official. The school has, meanwhile, denied any association with him. 

In a series of phone conversations, which are with TNM, the imposter is heard haranguing the family of 15-year-old Anita (name changed), seeking a compromise in the case, which has been filed against the school and the teacher under stringent sections of the Indian Penal Code and Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015. According to police sources, the investigations into the matter are at an advanced stage and they have enough evidence, including CCTV footage, to soon present a chargesheet before the court.

Srikanth Kumar Goud first contacted the family three days after TNM first reported the incident on November 17, says Pavan Kumar, who has been helping the family with difficult interactions involving the police, school management and the media. When Srikanth reached out, the family nominated Pavan to do the talking. 

In one such phone conversation, Srikanth says that it was better to move on as it was a matter of the student’s future. “She is, after all, a brilliant student,” he added ominously. Even as Pavan refused to accept any compromise in the case, Srikanth allegedly continued to pressure the family, and even offered to bribe them. Pavan has also alleged that he was followed for three days by unknown men.

TNM has accessed all call recordings and the conversations between Srikanth and Pavan since the first call on November 20. During their initial conversation, Pavan reminded Srikanth that this isn’t a small issue and is now a criminal case. In response, Srikanth could be heard telling Pavan, “The school has realised their mistake and the teacher has been transferred to another school.” However, when we checked with the school, the Vice President of the school denied taking such action against the accused teacher who is accused of seriously violating the student’s dignity. 

It may be recalled that on September 23, Anita had to use the school restroom a few times when she was taking an examination, as she was menstruating. However, her class teacher accused her of using the washroom to cheat. The student was left clutching onto the last pieces of her clothing as the teacher allegedly tried to force her to strip completely. While the school denied all allegations when Anita’s mother complained of this instance and previous instances of discrimination by the same teacher, the police registered an FIR (first information report) against the teacher based on the parents’ complaint. 

READ: Dalit girl in Hyderabad school 'made to strip' by teacher, harassed

No arrest was made and the final formalities before the filing of the chargesheet are currently underway. It is at this stage, when the investigation is nearing completion, that Srikanth reached out to Pavan to settle the case and even stall the investigation. 

When TNM contacted Srikanth Kumar Goud on December 12 to verify his credentials, he said, “I was sent by Raju Singh, who is a board member in the school. Because I am close to him, he sent me to mediate.” He also claimed to be the Personal Assistant of Damodar Raju Narsimha, who was the Deputy Chief Minister during the Congress regime between 2011 and 2014. 

In one of the recordings in TNM’s possession, Srikanth stated that the school management is ready to pay Rs 3 lakh to settle the case. To this, Pavan responded, “The girl’s family earns crores abroad. It isn’t about money. Ask madam and come back to us about clearly what they have on offer. What is the school’s intention?”

Two days later, on November 22, when Srikanth did not hear back from Pavan, he again got in touch with him and offered to mediate. 

When TNM reached out to Jude David, the Vice President of St Andrews School, to ask whether Srikanth Kumar Goud was a mediator sent by the school management, he said, “I am not sure about this. I will have to check and revert,” he responded. 

When asked whether the school had a board member called Raju Singh, he initially said, “Yes,” and then quickly retracted. “Actually, I am not too sure,” he said.

However, David later contacted this reporter. “There is no board member named Raju Singh,” he said, adding, “I can confirm to you that a senior committee has been set up to inquire into the incident. And the report would be submitted within a week.”

When enquired about the action against the teacher, David said, “Once the inquiry is complete and the report is submitted, the further course of action will be decided.”

Meanwhile, reacting to the attempts to strike a compromise, the student’s aunt told TNM that the student is now being ostracised in her class. "This isn't about money. The teacher should be dismissed, action should be taken against the school director for denying the incident and playing it down, and the school should apologise. This is what we want," she said. 

"The school should also put a system in place to ensure such incidents do not happen in future. The Ministry of Education should have a mechanism to hold private institutions accountable if something like this happens. No other child should suffer again," she said. 

Even as Srikanth claimed that the school is willing to dismiss the teacher and apologise, nothing has been officially communicated to Anita’s family as yet.