‘Humiliated’ and sacked Hindu headmaster reinstated in Bangladesh

School autorities made Shyamal Kanti Bhakta -- though innocent -- do sit-ups in public for "insulting Islam" and "unauthorised absence,"

May 19, 2016 06:33 pm | Updated 06:38 pm IST - DHAKA:

Bangladesh authorities on Thursday reinstated a Hindu headmaster of a high school, admitting that his sacking was “illegitimate” even as thousands of teachers rallied across the country to protest against a lawmaker, who humiliated him by making him do sit-ups in public.

The governing body of the school situated in suburban river port city of Narayanganj, which had sacked Shyamal Kanti Bhakta for “insulting Islam” and “unauthorised absence,” was also scrapped.

‘Victim of injustice’

“He [headmaster] is a victim of injustice and his dismissal was not legitimate... so orders have been issued for his reinstatement and dissolution of the school’s managing committee itself,” Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid told a news briefing.

The action was taken in line with an official inquiry committee report, he said, adding that an ad-hoc governing body was formed with administrative chief of the port city to run the Piyar Sattar Latif High School.

He was also beaten up by locals

Mr. Bhakta was beaten up by local people apparently at the instigation of the school’s governing committee which rallied support of an influential lawmaker of the constituency, who ordered him to do sit-ups in public holding his ears for allegedly making “derogatory remarks” against Islam.

However, the Minister said that the inquiry committee found the allegations brought against Mr. Bhakta as “untrue.”

Charges galore

The managing committee two days ago sacked Mr. Bhakta, saying he had “physically tortured students, received money in the name of teachers’ appointment, made derogatory comments about Islam, remained absent without leave and used to be late at work.”

His reinstatement came a day after the High Court took suo motu cognisance of Mr. Bhakta’s humiliation, asking for a government report on the Friday incident.

A video footage widely shared on the Facebook showed Member of Parliament (MP) Selim Osman ordering him to do sit-ups holding his ears.

Social groups seek his apology

Several social groups including an apex organisation of university teachers demanded that the lawmaker must apologise to the traumatised schoolteacher, who is now being treated at a local hospital under police protection.

Mr. Osman, a lawmaker from the opposition Jatiya Party who is known for his links in the government, had earlier said that “what I did was to save him [teacher] from public wrath as there was no other way to save him.”

It is a punishment for his comments

But in a press briefing on Thursday, he declined to apologise for forcing Mr. Bhakta to squat holding his ears in public, saying “there is no question of an apology [as] I did not humiliate a teacher, I gave punishment to a person who made offensive comments on Allah.”

Mr. Nahid, however, avoided a direct comment on Mr. Osman at the press conference, saying “we have received the probe report yesterday [Wednesday] and actions will be taken accordingly.”

Bangladesh University Teachers’ Association on Thursday staged an hour-long human chain in 37 public varsities across the country, including the premier Dhaka University, demanding exemplary punishment against the perpetrators.

The body had earlier termed the incident "the highest form of savagery“.

#SorrySir campaign

Angry posts flooded Facebook, with scores of protestors launching a #SorrySir campaign. The protestors changed their profile pictures on the social network with photos in which they were seen holding their own ears with a “sorry sir” caption, in a stunning show of solidarity with the headmaster.

Mr. Bhakta earlier told a TV channel that the school’s managing committee had been trying to remove him for the past few months to appoint a new head teacher who is the sister of the committee’s president.

He smells a conspiracy

“I have been working at the school since it opened 18 years ago. Now I am a victim of conspiracy... the whole thing has been stage-managed,” he said without making any reference to the MP.

The Osman family enjoys massive clout in the port town while the MP’s younger brother was also a lawmaker from a neighbouring constituency

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