Niqab-clad girl allegedly harassed by teacher in Coimbatore, parents lodge complaint

On November 10, the student who is studying in Class 7 was slapped by her class teacher in front of her classmates after the child objected to communal remarks she made about her parents.
Class 7 student with her relatives during inquiry
Class 7 student with her relatives during inquiry
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A Muslim family in Coimbatore has lodged a complaint with the district Chief Educational Officer (CEO), alleging Islamophobic harassment of their daughter at the Girls’ Government Higher Secondary School in Ashokapuram. The allegations against the school include forcing the child to clean the shoes of classmates with her niqab and publicly shaming her for consuming beef. 

In the complaint that filed on Tuesday, November 22, the parents alleged that their 13-year-old daughter was subjected to harassment and mental torture for more than two months at the school. The parents have urged the education department to take stringent action against two teachers in the school, and the headmistress. Based on the complaint, the district Chief Educational Officer (CEO) has launched an inquiry.  

On November 10, the Class 7 student was allegedly slapped by her class teacher, in front of her classmates after the student objected to the teacher’s allegedly communal and casteist remarks about her parents. 

The teacher allegedly asked the student about her parents’ occupations. The student had replied that her mother is a housewife and that her father runs a beef stall. To this, the teacher had said, “You are this arrogant because you eat beef.” The teacher slapped the girl after she stood up for herself and her parents, the family tells TNM. Again, on November 20, the girl was allegedly forced by the teacher to clean the shoes of other students using her niqab. 

It all started with a row over the child wearing a niqab, a family member told TNM. Two of the teachers allegedly told her not to wear a niqab to school and later threatened to speak to the headmistress and get her expelled. JM Hussain, the student's relative, said: “Since she started studying at this school a year back, she has been wearing a niqab over her uniform until entering the school premises. Inside the campus, she would be only in her school uniform.” He also said  the parents had initially met the headmistress and pointed out that their customs did not impact other students in the school in any way. According to him, the headmistress had at the time promised that the incident would not be repeated. However, the teacher was enraged that the student had brought the matter to her parents’ attention. For the next two months, the student was allegedly harassed in retaliation.  

Disappointed with school administration after their multiple complaints went unheard, the parents finally decided to approach the CEO. Before this, the student’s parents had repeatedly visited the school to complain about the issue but they received no response from her. On Thursday, November 16, when her parents visited the school again, the headmistress asked the parents to come back the next day and urged them to leave the campus for the time being.

“As we were about to leave the school, she called Thudiyalur police station and Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Chandrasekharan, and complained to them that we were creating problems inside the campus,” Hussain said. “The ACP, however, understood the situation and pacified the parents and the girl. He asked them to return home and gave them assurance that the student would not face further discrimination in the school. Despite this, on November 20, the school student was forced to clean the shoes of other students using her niqab,” Hussain said. 

Thudiyalur police told TNM that headmistress did indeed call the control room and that the station was subsequently notified. “To inquire about the issue, our team went to the school, but we received no complaints from either side,” the officer said. 

Family members of the student said they have lost faith in getting justice from the school and are resting their hopes on the education department. When TNM reached out to headmistress she said, “All the complaints against me are false. My staff and students will prove the truth to our [education] department and to the media after the CEO’s enquiries are completed.”

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