He called his friend, but the call divert facility took it to his teacher’s mobile phone

When Ramesh (name changed) bought a new phone last week, he did not realise that an unexpected technical glitch would trigger a caste-dictated backlash from his teacher at a government higher secondary school here.

An innocuous call to his friend Kumar (name changed) to exchange his new number on the night of November 7 went to his teacher due to call divert facility. The unexpected technical glitch and the ensuing friendly banter by an unaware Ramesh did not go down well with the teacher P. Arul, a temporary hand appointed by the Parent-Teachers’ Association to teach “draughtsman civil” for Ramesh’s vocational stream in Class 12 at Nadesanar Government Higher Secondary School at Ayakaranpulam in Vedaranyam.

For the two Dalit boys, despite their apologies, the backlash came in the form of public slap with slippers on the school premises the following morning. The boys were summoned by the teacher, pulled up by their collars, and slapped with slippers outside their classroom.

A staff member of the school, on condition of anonymity, told The Hindu that the incident took place on Friday morning, outside the class. There were a number of witnesses to it. “However, no one has lodged a complaint.” If suo motu action is initiated by the school against the teacher, it would lead to insinuations, the staff source said. According to the school head, Seethalakshmi, the incident was not brought to her knowledge. “I was away for the headmasters’ meeting at the Collectorate. Nobody brought it to my notice and I have not received any complaint”

When The Hindu visited Ramesh and his parents in their thatched dwelling unit in Karuvapulam, they preferred not to pursue the matter.

A visibly upset Ramesh has not attended school since the incident. For Kumar, with no father and a mentally unstable mother, there is no recourse. He continues to attend school. Kumar could not be reached by The Hindu.

The Chief Education Officer, Ramakrishnan, said a Deputy Education Officer had been deputed to the school to hold an enquiry.

In a late evening development, an oral enquiry was conducted by the DEO at the school. Sharing the proceedings of the enquiry, the staff source present at the time said oral testimonies, including that of the teacher’s and Kumar’s, were taken. However, a written statement was not recorded.