• Thursday, Dec 02, 2021
  • Last Update : 11:39 am

Humiliated headmaster suspended amid outrage

The management committee of Piyar Sattar Latif High School has suspended Shyamal Kanti Bhakta, the school's headmaster who was publicly humiliated by local lawmaker Selim Osman on Friday. A suspension letter signed by committee president Faruqul Islam was served to Shyamal yesterday morning at Narayanganj 300-Bed Hospital, where he is currently undergoing treatment, Shyamal told the Dhaka Tribune. The humiliated headmaster has gone on record to say that MP Selim had in fact saved him from an angry mob by appeasing it in part, but reiterated that his ill-treatment had been orchestrated by the school committee. Outrage at the public humiliation of the headmaster and support for him have flooded the social media, while protests have been taking place around the country. The school committee letter listed four reasons for suspending Shyamal. They are: that he physically tortured students, that he took bribes promising to secure jobs at the school, that he made derogatory comments about Islam and finally, that he frequently took unauthorised leave and came late to work. “You have been warned several times regarding the complaints against you, yet you have failed to refrain from such illegal and immoral activities. Hence, the committee at its May 13 [Friday] meeting has decided to suspend you from your duties,” the letter read. Interestingly, although the letter is dated May 13 in the top right corner of the document, the date that appears under the committee president's signature is May 16. The Dhaka Tribune tried to contact Faruqul Islam in this regard, but his phone was found switched off. Sources said he is currently abroad. The headmaster was initially beaten up. He was then seen being made to do squats while holding his ears on the instruction of Selim Osman, a Narayanganj lawmaker from the Jatiya Party, at the school on Friday for allegedly hurting religious sentiments. Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Shyamal claimed that the entire incident had been staged by the school management committee which had been trying to remove him from the headmaster's post for the past few months in order to put Faruqul Islam's sister Parveen Akhter, who is also the school's assistant head teacher, in his place. “I am a victim of a conspiracy by the management committee. Committee members Motiur Rahman and Mobarak Hossain and Upazila Nirbahi Office peon Mizanur Rahman have made serious attempts to remove me from my post. The whole thing has been stage-managed,” he said. He also claimed Mizanur and Mobarak assaulted him on Friday on Motiur's orders, and they tried to kill him. “Just a day ago, Motiur threatened me.” The school management committee has vehemently denied the allegations. “There has been no attempt to remove the headmaster,” both Parveen and Motiur told the Dhaka Tribune. But a three-member probe committee that was initially charged with investigating the matter found evidence of a conspiracy and conflict between Shyamal and the management committee. The probe team was formed anew yesterday with the addition of two more members, said Mousumi Habib, upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) of Bandar upazila, where the school is located. “The three-member probe team has been recast into a five-member team. They have been instructed to submit the probe report within five working days,” she told the Dhaka Tribune. The Dhaka Tribune was not able to learn why the probe committee had been recast.

Doubts regarding Shyamal's hurtful comments on Islam

There are doubts regarding the claim that Shyamal made hurtful comments about Islam or mocked the religious sentiment of the student who complained about being beaten by him. Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune on Saturday, the tenth-grader said Shyamal had beaten him during class on May 8 when he failed to respond to the teacher's call. “Some students were making noises behind me, which is why I did not hear Sir when he called me. Sir then came at me, grabbed my collar and beat me. At one point I fell unconscious. When I came around, I took Allah's name and Sir made a mocking comment.” But when the student's mother submitted an official complaint against Shyamal on May 10, she did not mention anything about derogatory comments about Islam and only stated that Shyamal had physically assaulted her son. When the Dhaka Tribune contacted the student again yesterday, he recanted his earlier accusation and said there had been no hurtful comments about Islam made by Shyamal. Asked why allegations of hurting religious sentiments had been brought against the teacher, the student said he did not know anything about it. UNO Mousumi, too, said the student's mother never complained about Shyamal's hurtful comments about Islam when she talked to her. Shyamal told the Dhaka Tribune: “I did not utter a single word against Islam, let alone any derogatory comment. This entire fiasco has been staged.”

Who instigated the assault?

No one seems to know who started the protest against Shyamal on Friday. The announcement that Shyamal had mocked Islam was made by microphone at Baitul Atiq Mosque, which is located near the school. The mosque's Imam, Mahmudul Hasan, said: “Some unknown young men entered the mosque around 10:30am and started announcing on the mike that Shyamal had insulted Islam.” Hearing the announcement, hundreds of people gathered in front of the school and started demanding Shyamal's death, said Shamsul Haque, vice-president of Balyandi village panchayat. Mawlana Borhan Uddin, the teachers' representative at the school, said: “We do not know who made the announcement. We did not even know about the comments until we heard it. We saw people gathering in front of the school all of a sudden, demanding punishment of our head teacher.” At one point, some of the people broke into the school and started beating Shyamal, he said.

'Selim Osman saved my life'

Shyamal told the Dhaka Tribune that Selim Osman saved him from the angry mob on Friday. Witnesses said the teacher had been held captive and tortured for nearly six hours. Police had been informed to bring the situation under control. But onlookers said they did hardly anything and took on the role of silent observers. As the situation deteriorated, locals informed lawmaker Selim Osman. Over phone, Selim asked the agitated crowd not to take the law in their own hands. He reached the school around 4pm, accompanied by UNO Mousumi, Jatiya Party Narayanganj district unit Convener Abul Zaher, Awami League Bandar upazila unit President MA Rashid, Bandar uapzila parishad Chairman Ataur Rahman Mukul and Bandar upazila Secondary Education Officer AKM Nurul Amin. Witnesses said when the MP asked the crowd about the matter, they complained about Shyamal making hurtful comments about Islam as well as beating a student. They also complained that Faruqul and Shyamal were responsible for many irregularities in the school's management. The lawmaker then directed the UNO to suspend Shyamal and fire Faruqul from the school's management committee and instructed Shyamal to apologise before the crowd, by performing squats while holding his ears. When contacted, Selim Osman told the Dhaka Tribune: “The crowd was demanding that Shyamal be hanged, and then demanded he apologise by doing squats holding his ears. I had to think about bringing the crowd under control and save Shyamal from being killed by the mob.”
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