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Bangladesh Is Outraged By Attack On Hindu Teacher, But Here's What's Getting Lost In The Din

20/05/2016 8:30 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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Adult holding a child's wrist

The outrage perpetrated In Bangladesh against headmaster Shyamal Kanti Bhakta, who was beaten by a mob and forced to do squats while holding his ears for allegedly insulting Islam, is unfortunate to say the least. The local headmaster of any school is considered to be a pillar of the community, and should not have to face such public humiliation under any circumstances. The entire country's show of solidarity with this man is touching, and proof that Bangladesh is not a fundamentalist country, that the majority of our people do not tolerate violence and degradation in the name of religion.

However, one "tiny" detail seemed to have gotten lost in the din. I am appalled by the lack of attention given to the fact that the teacher in question was using corporal punishment, which has long been declared illegal by the government even though many schools still practice it.

I have been reading some of the comments on social media drawing attention the mode of punishment used by the teacher, and they go something like this: "We have all been beaten by teachers, it's fine. It builds character."

I am appalled by the lack of attention given to the fact that the teacher in question was using corporal punishment...

Well, as a person who has personally experienced physical abuse at the hands of a teacher, I can tell you it is most definitely not fine. Beating up defenceless children, or even adolescents, in front of their peers is not a casual matter you can just shrug off.

Sure, it doesn't really affect some people as much. Some people can, and do shrug off a beating. But not all human beings are cast from the same mould. Some children are sensitive and punishment that centres on physical violence and public humiliation can often crush their self-confidence. Maybe it does build character in some cases, but it has also been known to create crippling lifelong rage, anxiety and depression issues.

This, of course, in no way dilutes the wrongness of the mob's actions towards the teacher. It was also shocking that lawmaker AKM Salim Osman participated in this abuse instead of intervening and getting Bhakta to safety. Incidentally, the accusations against Bhakta about making disrespectful remarks about religion have been vociferously denied by him and it is likely that the allegations were cooked up to target him because he is a Hindu. It is this aspect of the attack that has enraged Bangladesh.

I hope to see a similar form of protest... against the destruction of Sundarbans and the construction of a vile power plant in the midst of the jungle...

I applaud the initiative taken by popular Bangladeshi actor and advertising mogul Iresh Zaker, and many others who have come forward in social media to express their support to Shyamal Kanti Bhakta, with many posting pictures of themselves holding their ears the way he was forced to.

However, there are other issues which deserve our attention, if not our outrage.

I hope to see a similar form of protest from opinion leaders and people who wield an enormous amount of influence on social media against the destruction of Sundarbans and the construction of a vile power plant smack in the midst of the jungle which will surely drive our Royal Bengal Tigers to extinction.

Some issues should not just get lost in the din.

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