Mangaluru school row: Parent who complained against teacher claims abuse, threat

Meanwhile, the MLAs and corporators booked for the protest in school have managed to obtain anticipatory bail.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Feb 23, 2024 | 7:12 PMUpdatedFeb 23, 2024 | 7:12 PM

St Gerosa School in Mangaluru

The parent of a Standard 7 student of St Gerosa School in Mangaluru city has been caught in the eye of the storm amid the snowballing controversy involving a schoolteacher — a nun — who was suspended for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.

Kavitha Gangadhar (42) was one of the parents who put in an official complaint against the nun, alleging she hurt the sentiments of Hindus while teaching the poem Work is Worship by Rabindranath Tagore in her class recently.

Kavitha has been getting threatening calls from random WhatsApp numbers from abroad, she alleged to the Mangaluru City Police.

She also said miscreants were sending her voice messages filled with vulgar abuses — assassinating her character as well hurling as abuses on Lord Ram and the Ram temple.

The audio messages were in the Tulu language, and Kavitha reportedly received two such abusive voice messages, after which she decided to complain to the Kankanady police.

Based on her complaint, the cops on 20 February registered an FIR against unknown persons, booking them under Sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 504 (intentional insult provoking breach of peace), 507 (criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication), and 509 (outraging the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

They have also been booked under Section 66-D (punishment for cheating by personation) of the Information Technology (IT) Act.

FIR, sacking, transfer: How a teacher explaining a poem led to protests in a school

The complaint

Kavitha alleged to the police that on 10 February, she along with other parents of students of St Gerosa School filed a complaint with the deputy director of public instructions (DDPI) about Sister Mary Prabha Selvaraj making derogatory remarks about Lord Ram, the Ram temple and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“If one student says something, it could be brushed out as a lie. If two or three say it, we could still consider it a lie. But more than 10 students of Standard 7 came and told us that Sr Prabha had said Modi’s Ram temple was built at a place where a mosque was demolished,” she told South First.

Kavitha said the teacher had asked how Ram could live inside a stone and why people were decorating the stone.

“How can one just not believe what Sr Prabha’s intentions were — that too at a time observed food restrictions for the Ram Mandir consecration?” she asked.

“We are conservative Hindus, and as a parent, if I will not question this, then who will?” Kavitha asked South First.

“We wanted her to just admit that she had hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus and tell us that it was wrong. However, now that the school management is also defending and supporting her, we have lost hope,” she said.

Kavitha alleged in her complaint to the police that the reason she was getting threatening calls was that her mobile number, name, and personal details were being shared widely on social media after she lodged a complaint with the DDPI against Sr Prabha.

She had gone to the DDPI office with several parents of Standard 7 students of St Gerosa School along with Mangaluru South MLA Vedavyas Kamath to file the complaint.

However, she claims, after the complaint formalities, her name, mobile number and personal details were shared on social media along with allegations that it was Kavitha’s voice in the two audio clips that had gone viral online.

The purported audio clips alleged Sr Prabha had hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus in her class.

It was then the threatening calls and the abusive voice messages from abroad landed on Kavitha’s mobile phone, she said.

Related: Karnataka IAS officer begins inquiry into Mangaluru school row

Recently sacked from another school

Kavitha was also recently sacked from her job as a teacher, which she had held since 2022.

She had been working at the Holy Angels Higher Primary School in Thokkottu on the outskirts of Mangaluru, where she was taking classes for students of Standards 1-6.

“I used to be the class teacher for Standard 3, imparting Kannada lessons,” she said. She also taught English in Standard 1, Maths in Standard 2, and Science in Standard 6, she said.

“I was asked by the school management to work as a temporary teacher, but they removed me from the job on 17 February without any reason, merely stating that my services were no longer required,” she told South First.

“I presume that I was fired from the job as I was one among the parents who protested at my daughter’s school,” she claimed.

“Hardly a month was left for the school’s academic year to conclude, and I was under the impression that I would join another school in the next academic year. However, they terminated me without giving me any reason,” Kavitha told South First.

However, the management of the Holy Angels Higher Primary School maintained that Kavitha was only filling in as a temporary teacher, and was asked to leave once the school management found a person who could fill the position on a permanent basis.

That this could happen was communicated to her while she was hired for the job, police sources told South First.

At present, Kavitha and the parents of around six students of Standard 7 of St Gerosa School are said to be searching for other schools in and around their houses.

“Ever since the complaint was filed with the DDPI and the police, the school management has been indifferent to a select few students, and it looks like they are being targeted. We cannot jeopardise the future of our daughters,” Kavitha said.

Related: Mangaluru diocese seeks justice as teacher fired over ‘anti-Hindu’ remarks

Accused MLAs, corporators get anticipatory bail

Meanwhile, the 81st Additional City Civil and Sessions court Judge in Bengaluru and the Special Court for Criminal Cases against elected representatives on Wednesday, 21 February, granted anticipatory bail to Mangaluru South MLA Vedavyas Kamath, Mangaluru North MLA Bharath Shetty, and three others — including city corporators Sandeep Garodi and Bharath Kumar — along with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Sharan Pumpwell.

The Mangaluru South police had registered a case against them based on a complaint of local resident Anil Gerald Lobo.

They were accused of not only promoting enmity between groups but also staging a protest and forcibly making the students of St Gerosa school chant “Jai Sri Tam” and creating an atmosphere instilled with fear.

The accused parties filed for anticipatory bail before the special court under Section 438 of the CrPC on 16 February.

The judge directed the Mangaluru police to release the accused parties on bail if they were arrested after obtaining a personal bond for ₹1 lakh with one surety for the like sum.

The accused were also instructed not to tamper with evidence or threaten prosecution witnesses.