KOLKATA: The Visva-Bharati University has issued an apology over the shocking incident where a 10-year-old student was forced to drink her own urine by her hostel warden.
The university in a statement said: "The University unequivocally regrets the traumatic experience of a Patha Bhavana student at the hands of the Warden Ms. Uma Poddar (of Karabi hostel). Visva-Bharati has allowed the girl to be a day-boarder, as an exceptional case. The University further assures the parents of the girl (and all other parents of Patha Bhavana children) that such instances will not recur."
The university also requested the parents of Punita Mistri to send her back to school, saying: "Visva-Bharati requests the girl's parents to send her back to Patha Bhavana. Visva-Bharati has decided to overhaul the entire Warden-Matron system prevailing in its school hostels for years and seek avenues on how to improve the situation, befitting the stature of a Central University of national and international importance."
Urine punishment sickens nation
There was outrage across the nation as news filtered out that Punita Mistri, a 10-year-old Visva-Bharati student, was forced by her hostel warden to drink her own urine - as punishment for bed-wetting.
Even as her parents managed to take their traumatised child away and the rest of the country reacted with shock and outrage, the university went on the defensive, confirming the perception that the rot went much deeper than any single act of malice and negligence would signify.
Forced to drink her urine for wetting bed at a VisvaBharati hostel, a traumatised Punita Mistri doesn't want to go back to school.
"It is too much of a humiliation - to lick urine in front of my friends," the 10-year-old said.
The child contradicted vicechancellor Sushanta Dutta Gupta's claim that she wasn't forced into the act. "I did lick the bedsheet after salt was sprinkled on it. How can the VC make such a claim when he was not even there?" she said.
A day after being pulled up by the Bolpur court for being soft on Visva-Bharati hostel warden Uma Poddar, police charged her with cruelty to a juvenile. This is a punishable crime and carries a sixmonth jail sentence.
Poddar, who has been accused of forcing 10-year-old Punita Mistri to drink her own urine as punishment for bedwetting, had earlier been charged with negligent act likely to spread disease and wrongful punishment.
Adding insult to the injury, the heinous act provoked no remorse in either Uma Poddar, the warden of that particular hostel, or the university authorities. While the former went on to justify the efficacy of her act as a "traditional cure for bed-wetting", the vice-chancellor of the university and physicist Sushanta Dutta Gupta focused on drawing a hairline's distinction between 'asking' and 'forcing' the girl to commit the act, all the while defending the obscurantist approach.
The office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is also Visva-Bharati's chancellor, sought a report from the university authorities and asked for strong action. Also, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights asked the West Bengal government to probe the incident.
In the official website dedicated to its institutions, Visva-Bharati describes Patha Bhavana, a school providing elementary and secondary education, as its "bedrock". Set up in 1901 as the Asram Vidyalaya, it was supposed to embody the core of the educational philosophy that Rabindranath Tagore espoused, bringing students closer to their natural surroundings and nurturing a close bond between the teachers and the taught.
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