In the wake of severe criticism on social media, the education ministry has launched a probe into the incident of public humiliation of a headmaster in Narayanganj for his alleged derogatory comments on religion.
Shyamal Kanti Bhakta, headmaster of Piyar Sattar Latif High School in Bandar area, was beaten up by a mob and made to do sit-ups holding his ears in the presence of local Jatiya Party lawmaker AKM Selim Osman on Friday.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, the victim said the locals were provoked by false allegations that he had made disparaging statements about religion.
Shyamal, a member of the Hindu community, was rescued by law enforcers. He is now receiving treatment at a local hospital under police protection.
A video clip of the incident has gone viral on social media, triggering public outrage and a firestorm of protests on social networking sites.
A number of private television channels yesterday aired reports along with the video clip released by a local news portal -- narayanganj24.com.
Infuriated by the incident, some Facebook users uploaded photos in which they were holding their ears. The photos carried the caption, "sorry sir".
Condemning the incident, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid said he was deeply saddened by it.
A three-member committee has been formed to investigate the incident, he told this correspondent yesterday.
"Insulting him in public was a condemnable act. It is very unfortunate, unacceptable and inhuman. We are very shocked," the minister said.
The committee headed by a secondary education officer will investigate the incident and come up with recommendations.
"Then we will take the next step," Nahid added.
Talking to this correspondent last night, Shyamal, who has been the headmaster of the school for around 17 years, said some members of the school managing committee had a grudge against him as he refused to meet their unfair demands.
"They wanted me to be their puppet but I resisted them. They had been looking for an excuse to oust me from the school,” he alleged.
Shyamal said they finally got the chance through an incident on May 8 when he slapped two class-X students at the school to discipline them.
Four days later, the chairman of the school managing committee asked him to arrange a meeting to discuss the school's development work, said the headmaster.
Shyamal then called a meeting and went to the school to attend it on May 13.
As the meeting started, a committee member said a female guardian had lodged a written complaint against Shyamal that he had beaten her son, a class-X student of the school.
Within minutes, several youths suddenly entered the meeting room and started beating Shyamal.
The headmaster told this correspondent that he later learnt from his relatives that when he was under attack, it was announced over the loudspeakers of a nearby mosque that he had hurt religious sentiment.
Later, he was made to do sit-ups in the presence of the JP lawmaker.
“I was dumbfounded by the incident. I lost sense of what was happening around me... I want justice. I pray that no teacher would ever go through such an ordeal.”
Shyamal said he didn't say anything about religion, let alone make derogatory remarks.
The video clip showed that the mob encircling Shyamal was chanting “Joy Bangla” while he was doing sit-ups.
At one stage, Shyamal fell to the ground. He was then made to stand up and apologise to the crowd.
Syed Borhanul Islam, a teacher of Islamic Studies at the school, told reporters that he had never heard of any allegations that the headmaster had made disparaging comments on religion.
The chairman of the school managing committee couldn't be reached for comments.
Earlier, Selim Osman told the BBC that the headmaster was made to do sit-ups in his presence.
There was no other way to save the teacher from the angry mob, the MP claimed.
Meanwhile, Narayanganj Superintendent of Police Khandaker Mohit Uddin said the police have nothing to do with the incident. “Police went there to prevent any cognisable offence from taking place.”
The matter entirely falls under the jurisdiction of the school governing body, he told journalists at the office of the DIG of police, Dhaka Range, in the capital.