Whether it is a teacher in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district who is accused of asking students to beat a classmate because he was Muslim, a Jammu and Kashmir teacher who allegedly thrashed a student for writing Jai Shri Ram on the classroom blackboard, or the Delhi government teacher booked by the police for hurling communal slurs at Muslim students, the common thread is this — a disturbing leaching of the political polarisation outside the classroom into pedagogy within it. This unfortunate trend, however fringe, must be arrested urgently. Classrooms are inviolate spaces, where the country shapes its future by nurturing the creativity and channelling the talent of the next generation of learners. Teachers are meant to be the vehicles for actualising the dreams of young minds. If some of them are instead becoming peddlers of the discord, they are not only failing at their job, but also undermining the toil of millions of unsung educators. To target young people by their religious identities is reprehensible, and there should be no tolerance for such behaviour.
What can be done? Administrative will is needed, oodles of it, to ensure that however politically inconvenient, the right thing is done, and the strongest possible action is taken against teachers who have tarnished the name. The State and society will have to regain the trust of the violated young people and assure them that what happened to them was an aberration, and belied the promises the country’s Constitution make to its citizens. And political actors will need to recognise that the hate they spew, or encourage, has a very real cost, one that our youngest minds are being forced to pay.