Kolkata/New Delhi, July 9 (IANS) The case of a Class 5 student allegedly made to drink her own urine in West Bengal's Viswa-Bharati campus, founded by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, took a curious turn Monday with the warden and the parents being arrested but later freed on bail. The incident also came to the notice of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), which sought a report.
A court in West Bengal's Bolpur, while granting bail to all three, condemned the incident and censured police for booking the warden under bailable offences.
The court also ordered Patha Bhavan school warden Uma Poddar, who was held following complaints that she had forced the victim to drink her own urine after she wet the bed, to pay for the student's treatment as she has been sick since the incident.
In a case of allegations and counter-allegations, the victim's parents were also arrested after the university complained they had stormed the premises and jeopardised the security of the students of the Karabi Hostel where the incident reportedly took place.
The three were produced before Birbhum's additional district judge Piyush Ghosh in Bolpur, the nearest town to Santiniketan which houses the Viswa-Bharati campus, and released on bail.
Poddar was arrested Monday morning following a complaint by the parents of the girl who was allegedly made to drink her urine. As she was booked under bailable offences, she has been granted bail by the court, said Birbhum Superintendent of Police Rishikesh Meena.
The girl's parents were also released on bail, added Meena.
According to the complaint filed by the parents, the incident occurred Saturday evening when Poddar, while on an inspection, pulled up the girl for bed-wetting. She allegedly then sprinkled salt on the urine and made the girl lick her urine as a punishment.
"The warden sprinkled some salt over the wet bed and asked me to lick it saying this will cure me of bed-wetting. I was also locked up and not allowed to go home. I felt so terrified," said the girl.
After the girl told her mother about the ordeal, her parents and several other people stormed the hostel premises and allegedly manhandled Poddar.
Following the incident, the university set up a four-member fact finding committee, headed by former dean of students welfare Aruna Mukherjee, to probe the matter.
"As per the report of the committee, the girl was not forced to drink the urine but only told to do so to terrify her. Moreover, it is a kind of superstitious practice aimed at curing bed-wetting. We, however, do not endorse it. It is unfortunate," Vice Chancellor Sushanta Dutta Gupta said adding Poddar was for the time being relieved from her duties as a warden.
In Kolkata, Magsaysay award winning writer Mahasweta Devi, herself a Viswa-Bharati alumni, said: "It is a shame for all of us. I cannot even imagine that such kind of incident can take place in Viswa Bharati. Whoever is responsible should be punished."
In New Delhi, an official said: "PMO has sought a report through the human resource development ministry."
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) called the incident "barbaric".
"It is absolutely barbaric. Not even animals can do this. We will ensure that the guilty are punished at the earliest," an outraged NCPCR chief Shantha Sinha told IANS.
NCPCR has also sought detailed reports both from the university and the state government.
Meanwhile a public interest litigation has been filed before the Calcutta High Court seeking its intervention in the matter and demanding monetary compensation for the alleged victim.
The petition also accuses the university of violating court guidelines against corporal punishment.
Visva Bharati was founded by Tagore. In his words, the institution "acknowledges India's obligation to offer to others the hospitality of her best culture and India's right to accept from others their best".