A video of a 9-year-old girl showing marks of physical abuse allegedly by her teacher went viral over the weekend and caused outrage among people in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), police said on Sunday.
In the video, the mother of the minor girl, a student of a state-run primary school in Upper Tangerran village of tehsil Abbaspur, is seen showing marks of abuse on her daughter which she says are a result of brutal corporal punishment by a female teacher, allegedly for not remembering her lesson. The incident was confirmed by police in the area on Sunday.
“The innocent child was ruthlessly beaten. Who resorts to such kind of torturous treatment with schoolchildren in today’s time?” Qazi Arsalan, second officer in Police Station Abbaspur, told DawnNews.
According to the police, the incident occurred on Tuesday and garnered local attention after human rights activist Saqib Mushtaq uploaded photographs of the girl on Facebook.
Pictures showed the bruised swollen eyes of the girl, which doctors say is because of flogging on the head. Marks of flogging were also seen on the girl's back.
According to Arsalan, the girl was brought to the station by her grandfather and uncle on Wednesday ─ a day after the incident took place.
The police sent to her to a local health facility, from where she was referred to Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed al- Nahayan Hospital in district headquarters Rawalakot.
“Since there is no such law in AJK dealing with corporal punishment in educational institutions, we were left with no choice but to register a case under normal penal code sections, which however require a medical report,” Arsalan explained.
On Saturday, the police received a provisional medical report from Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan Hospital, on the basis of which a first information report (FIR) was lodged against the teacher, he said.
“Police teams are conducting raids to arrest the accused but she has gone into hiding,” he said, adding that the case was assigned to a lady sub-inspector.
Separately on Saturday, Deputy Commissioner Poonch Raja Tahir Mumtaz constituted an official committee and ordered it to submit a report regarding the incident within three days. The same day, District Education Officer (DEO) Poonch Rehana Shah Mohammad visited the victim in the hospital and assured her family of justice at all costs.
Arsalan added that police officials would also write to the education department in order to clarify whether the accused teacher was a regular appointee or serving on behalf of someone else.
It has been alleged that the accused was not a regular appointee. Rather, she was “unlawfully” serving in place of the regular teacher when the incident took place.
Under a troublesome practice, allegedly carried out in connivance with education department officials, teachers appoint “surrogates” in their place against a nominal salary.
“If it’s proven that she is not a duly appointed teacher, we will also add a section in the FIR dealing with impersonation,” he said. “We will also write to the concerned authorities to bring those officials to justice who had turned a blind eye towards this unlawful practice."
Meanwhile, the incident drew wrath and indignation from across AJK on social networks.
“The more we condemn this incident, the less it will be. It’s not punishment but savagery. Such ogres should be banned forever from serving in this noble profession,” one user wrote on his Facebook account regarding the incident. “The education department should take solid steps to stop recurrence of such incidents."
Another user lamented that majority of teachers in AJK were not playing the role that their profession warranted.
“There are very few teachers [who are] seriously and sincerely interested in education as well as training of students. Many [teachers] resort to corporal punishment to bring students to terms which eventually divests victims of interest in studies,” he maintained.