The Karnataka child rights body has criticised the state police for questioning school students after they staged a play against Citizenship Amendment Act in Bidar district, The Indian Express reported on Saturday. A teacher and parent have been arrested on the grounds that the play, which was staged on January 21, was seditious and inflammatory.

Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights pulled up the district police for violating the norms under the Juvenile Justice Act. It has asked police to stop questioning the schoolchildren.

Commission’s chairperson Antony Sebastian in a letter to the superintendent of police and the deputy commissioner said “an atmosphere of fear” was created at the Shaheen Urdu Medium Primary School because of the questioning.

The police have drawn flak for filing the sedition charges on the basis of a complaint of an activist of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, which is the students’ wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and questioning the young students, including a nine-year-old. The police have claimed the students – in classes 4, 5 and 6 – insulted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The police arrested the head teacher of Shaheen Urdu Medium Primary School and the mother of one of the students on January 30. The child rights body said police officials violated norms by sending the nine- year-old to be looked after a neighbour after the arrest of the child’s mother. Sebastian asked the district police to highlight the child’s condition in the court where her mother’s bail plea is pending.

“After interactions with parents, school officials, children and the police, and after studying photographs and CCTV footage, it is clear that the police violated the rights of children at the school,’’ Sebastian said. “We have seen from pictures of the questioning of children that some policemen were present in uniform in violation of the law while some policemen were in civil clothes. When the children were being questioned, their parents or guardians should have been present.”

The child’s rights commission also said many students have stopped going to the school after the police investigation.

The Child Welfare Committee of Bidar district had also issued a notice to the police over the incident. The panel had said it was making sure of the welfare of the child whose mother has been arrested. The bail applications of the two women arrested in the case will be heard on February 11.

Also read

Should children be drawn into protests? Parents, teachers and counsellors weigh in