An image of a boy with burn injuries is viral with the claim that a student wearing an Ayyappa necklace was made to wash the bathroom with acid at a ‘Christian’ school. The image and its corresponding claim in Telugu were shared by an individual user Mekala Nagarjuna Reddy. His post has 12,000 shares. The caption is as follows – “అయ్యప్పమాల వేసుకున్నందుకు క్రిస్టియన్ స్కూల్లో యాసిడ్ తో బాత్రూమ్ క్లీన్ చేపించిన స్కూల్ యాజమాన్యం. యాసిడ్ పడి గాయపడిన బాలుడు.”
The same set of images was also shared by Twitter user SahaJio (@oldhandhyd) with an English text which suggested that the incident took place in Good Shepherd school, Tamil Nadu. “Punishment for wearing Ayyappa Mala. – cleaning school toilet with acid. Acid spills on to child’s hands. Injured. TN, Tuticorin, Eral, Idayarkadu TNTA(DNDA ? ) Good Shepherd School. Govt. Aided..! #noconversion,” he wrote.
The English message has been circulated by several other Twiiter users – @ByRakeshSimha and @nandaji1958 – and Facebook pages (TheEducatedIndianNews). A similar claim has also been made in Hindi – “#HinduKid : तमिलनाडु के एक सरकारी मद से चलने वाले स्कूल में “अय्यप्पा माला” पहनने पर एक हिंदू बच्चे को एसिड से विद्यालय के सारे टायलेट साफ करने की सजा मिली, बच्चा एसिड से झुलस गया #Secularism #Tamilnadu और हम ,हमारे बच्चों को क्रिसमस का केक कटवा रहे हैं, और वो हमारे बच्चों को एसिड से नहला रहे हैं.”
A keyword search on Google led Alt News to a December 5 report in The Times of India. According to the article, a 12-year-old boy Maharaja suffered burn injuries “on a major portion of his left hand and toes while removing acid bottles from a chemistry lab on the instructions of the headmaster.” The report further adds, “According to preliminary inquiries, termites damaged a portion of the chemistry laboratory, following which the headmaster engaged the boys to clear it.”
Five students – Maharaja, Pramodh, Velraj, Murugaperuman, Jayakumar and Vasurajan – were given the task of removing acid bottles during which Maharaja suffered serious injuries and Pramodh suffered mild burns.
Maharaja was quoted in The Times of India as stating that an ‘important’ person was visiting the school hence a few students “were asked to dispose of the waste from the laboratory. I was carrying a bottle of acid. A boy behind me stumbled and fell on me. My bottle did not break, but his bottle broke and fell on me,” he said. Chief education officer (CEO) of Tuticorin district A Gnanagowri told the media outlet that “a circular would be sent to all the schools in the district not to use students to handle acid and inflammable and other dangerous materials.”
Alt News contacted Gnanagowri who termed social media claims “false” and informed that the incident had no communal or religious bearings. “What the headmaster did was wrong. He should not have asked students to clean the lab. But claims that he did so because a student was wearing an Ayyappa mala is also wrong. Around five students were given the task and all of them belonged to different communities,” she said. The CEO added that the school is government-aided and not wholly managed by the state. However, the headmaster was suspended the same day at her direction.
As per another report in The New Indian Express, the boys were “admitted to a private hospital before being referred to the Thoothukudi Medical College Hospital.”
An image of an incident where two schoolboys suffered burn injuries after acid spilt on them while cleaning the chemistry lab in Good Shepherd Higher School at Edayarkadu near Palayakayal, Tamil Nadu, was presented with a communal angle on social media. The claim that one of the boys was made to clean the school bathroom with acid for adorning an Ayyappa necklace is baseless. Five students were given the task of disposing of waste in the chemistry laboratory and two of them suffered burns when a bottle of acid broke.
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