The Viswa Bharati hostel warden, who allegedly forced a 10-year-old student to lick her own urine, has found an unlikely defender in social activist Swami Agnivesh.

Uma Poddar’s actions may have outraged the nation, but Swami Agnivesh has merely derided the “senseless ruckus” made by the girl’s parents, the media, and “even the Prime Minister’s Office.”

Citing the Viswa-Bharati Vice Chancellor, who “categorically denied any use of force on the girl,” Swami Agnivesh said: “It is sad that a simple piece of advice by the hostel warden has created so much ruckus by the girl’s parents and then by the media.”

When it was pointed out that according to the girl’s own account, the warden made her do it, Swami Agnivesh told The Hindu: “She was asked to do it, she was told to do it. She was not literally forced. Her hands were not tied, and it was not poured into her mouth.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Swami Agnivesh listed the names of well-known urine therapy advocates – including the former Prime Minister, Morarji Desai, and politicians Chaudhari Devi Lal and George Fernandes – and added that he was a practitioner himself: “While for many, the traditional cure may sound abhorring (sic) and feudal, I practised it myself for months on end when in Ambala Central Jail during Emergency, I read books on Nature Cure and found this method described as “Shivambu” or Swamootra Chikitsa, [treatment through one’s own urine.],” said the statement. “I had this problem of bedwetting till quite advanced age. “Shivambu” cure helped reduce it.”

Child rights activists are appalled by such a defence. “Unlike all these leaders, this child did not choose to do this. Even if there was no physical force used – and this has not been proved yet – it is a serious issue of choice and dignity,” says Enakshi Ganguly, co-director of HAQ: Centre for Child Rights.

She pointed out that for any child who has been taught to treat urination as a private matter not to be discussed with her peers, such treatment could be humiliating. “Was there any medical opinion taken? Was a child psychologist consulted about the original cause of the bedwetting? Why were the parents kept in the dark if this is such a wonderful cure” she asked. “If urine therapy is so beneficial, then all the children should have been drinking their own piss, instead of just singling out that one child.”