A private nursery school in Bellandur has found itself in the centre of a major controversy involving a staffer accused of sexually exploiting kindergarten students and a principal criticised for complacency in light of the crime.
It has 160 students in nursery and kindergarten, and employs 35 teaching and non-teaching staff.
The incident was brought to light when the parents of three-and-a-half-year-old girl arrived at the principal’s office complaining that Manjunath, a school staffer, had sexually assaulted their child.
The Logical Indian spoke to Priyanka Rajwar, a local resident, whose own child had been in the school for two months six years ago. Miss Rajwar said, “The person who this complaint was raised against is someone who has been associated with the school from the very beginning – which is to say, for the last seven years. His role in the school was unspecified; he worked at times as a caretaker or general helper, but served no specific job role. He also lives in the school campus itself.”
The principal, Dr. Veena, initially denied all allegations and refused to believe the parents. She said the child must be mistaken or lying.
Finding no help in the school, the parents then went to the local police station and filed an FIR. Manjunath was duly arrested. This was on Friday, 17 February.
Miss Rajwar said, “That night, the principal called the parents and pleaded them to take back the complaint, trying to convince them that she would take action against the man herself.”
Next day, the parents sent a WhatsApp message informing of a solidarity protest that evening at 4 PM. This message was circulated in other groups which included many parents in the community.
When the victim’s parents arrived outside the school that evening, they were taken by surprise. After reading the message, many parents in the locality had approached their children, asking them about Manjunath. What was revealed was that Manjunath’s abuse of children was a pattern, and had been happening for a long time now.
“The school faculty would often portray Manjunath as a disciplinary figure. If the kids made any noise or mischief, the teachers would threaten them saying, ‘I will send you to Manju bhaiyya’ or ‘I will call Manju bhaiyya’. As such, the man was someone the kids had been taught to fear.”
When it became evident that Manjunath was a routine abuser of children, the community turned up in large numbers to protest outside the school. More than 70 parents had gathered outside the school, demanding justice.
However, despite the outrage, Monday was just another day in the playschool. Enraged at the complacency, local citizens now also demanded action against the principal. Soon, the ACP and police authorities arrived at the school and the principal was taken for questioning. Additionally, Manjunath was jailed under non-bailable offences.
“It didn’t mean anything,” Miss Rajwar told us. “The principal was issued light charges and released after a Rs. 1000-worth bail was paid. The parents of this area are up in arms: they want strict action not only against Manjunath, but also against the principal.”
The FIR was now updated because Manjunath’s victims were, apparently, more than one. “The victims included boys and girls. The man worked in the school, so he obviously knew where all the CCTV cameras were. And given the atmosphere of fear created, the kids were absolutely terrified of him.”
“The residents of this area want two things: One, we want the principal to also be tried and punished. She may not have known about the sexual abuse, but there is enough evidence that she knew about abuse, that she knew something wrong was going on. Second, franchise should cancel the license of this school. They have a national name, and to preserve that they are duty-bound to take away the branding of schools which are known to indulge in such horrific activities.”
The Logical Indian hopes that Manjunatha is strictly punished by the law, and the principal properly tried and accordingly punished.