IAS officer Akash Shankar begins probe into Mangaluru school controversy

The controversy arose after an audio recording emerged of a parent speaking to a VHP leader, alleging that the English teacher made comments disrespectful to religious beliefs while teaching a poem.
IAS officer Akash Shankar begins probe into Mangaluru school controversy
Mangalore Today
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IAS officer Akash Shankar on Monday, February 19, started a probe into the recent controversy at the St Gerosa Higher Primary School in Mangaluru, over a teacher’s alleged derogatory remarks on Ram temple and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Akash Shankar, who also serves as the Additional Commissioner of the Department of School Education and Literacy, Kalaburagi Division, was appointed by the Karnataka government on February 17 to conduct a probe into the matter.

After meeting officials at the Deputy Director of Public Instruction office (DDPI) at the Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat building, Akash said that he has already collected preliminary information about the incident. “I cannot talk about the investigation as it is ongoing,” he said. 

Earlier this month, an English teacher at St Gerosa Higher Primary School was accused of making derogatory comments about the recently inaugurated Ram temple in Ayodhya and PM Modi. The matter came to light after an audio recording of a parent speaking to Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Sharan Pumpwell emerged. In the recording, the parent alleged that this English teacher made comments allegedly disrespectful to religious beliefs while teaching a poem called ‘work is worship’. The row soon escalated, with Hindutva groups such as the VHP and Bajrang Dal along with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs Bharath Shetty and Vedavyas Kamath staging a protest outside the school. The teacher was subsequently suspended

On February 15, the school management gave a detailed explanation of the incident, stating that the teacher had denied the allegations against her. The management also explained that the poem was taught with an emphasis on respecting all religions, and did not hurt any sentiments.

Sr Anitha, the headmistress of the school, said that when she approached the MLA to discuss the matter, he demanded the suspension of the teacher and threatened to intensify protests if action is not taken. “I told him that I cannot remove the teacher without enquiry as per education institution rules. But the mob led by the MLA pressured me to remove the teacher with immediate effect. With no other go, and to maintain law and order and to disperse the mob that was swelling, I was forced to issue a statement removing Sr Prabha from the job,” she said. 

Mangaluru police have also registered a case against the two MLAs and VHP leader under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including 153a (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc) and 295a (deliberate and malicious acts, that are intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs). 

On February 19, VHP and Bajrang Dal activists protested against the FIR outside the school. The protest was held at Mini Vidhana Soudha in Mangaluru and the activists tried to push through the police barricades chanting ‘Jai Sri Ram’. Several protesters were detained by the police.

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