In the end, all it took was a Facebook post to unravel decades of alleged sexual abuse of students in a school — a photo posted by the alleged perpetrator himself to mark his retirement as a teacher.
On Friday, the teacher, who is also a CPM councillor in Kerala’s Malappuram district, was arrested on the charge of sexually abusing girl students at the school where he had worked for 30 years.
Police said the accused retired in March this year. CPM sources said he has resigned from the post of councillor on the party’s directions. Protests were also held in Malappuram by youth and women’s groups, alleging that police had dragged their feet on arresting the CPM leader in the Left-ruled state.
Police sources said seven complaints have been received so far from former students of the school.
“At present, we have registered only a single POCSO case, based on the complaint from a woman, who said the teacher had abused her when she was a junior student. In the other six complaints, the complainants are older,” said a police officer in Malappuram.
“As per these complaints, the alleged sexual abuse took place before 2012, the year the POCSO Act came into effect. Hence, more cases would be registered only after obtaining legal opinion,’’ the officer said.
Kerala Education Minister V Sivankutty said his department would probe whether there had been any lapse on part of the school management in reporting the alleged abuse.
The state’s Director-General of Education Jeevan Babu has been directed to submit a report, Sivankutty said.
According to police, the allegations of sexual abuse emerged last month after teacher posted on Facebook a photograph of his retirement function.
The first allegation was posted by a former student on her Facebook account, referring to the teacher’s retirement post. In response to her allegation, other former students wrote that they had faced similar harassment from the teacher.
A leading advocate and social activist, who is a representative of the school’s alumni association, said the accused had “a strategy to target five to six girls in a class”. “He had taught junior classes during his career. Our estimate is that he might have abused 400-500 students during his career,’’ the advocate told reporters.
According to the advocate, the school management took no action despite a complaint filed with its Ethics Committee in 2019. “The teachers kept silent when they should have been helping the students… many children haven’t even realised that what happened to them was abuse,” she said.
There was an attempt to file a police complaint but that was allegedly sabotaged, according to the advocate.
“When students complained about the teacher, they were scolded. The teachers were of the view that the students faced such an experience because they had flirted with the alleged accused. In two incidents, the survivors were on the brink of suicide. He had brutally abused some of the students. We have information about around 25 such incidents,” she said.