October 10, 2021 11:48:40 am
January 18, 2005, was a Tuesday. It was the Arabic period for Class 3 in one of the thatched-roof classrooms at the Government High School in Kandala, a village 20 km southeast of Thiruvananthapuram. A few minutes into the class, Al-Ameen S, sitting in one of the front benches, was poked on the back by his best friend. As he turned around to ask him why he poked, the angry teacher, Shereefa Shajahan, hurled the pen she was holding at Al-Ameen. The nib went into his left eye, and despite three surgeries over a year, the eye could not be saved.
More than 16 years after the incident, which made headlines and set off state-wide protests against the teacher, on September 30, Additional District & Sessions Court (POCSO) in Thiruvananthapuram found her guilty on charges of “voluntarily causing grievous hurt”, sentenced her to one-year imprisonment and directed her to pay Rs 3 lakh compensation to Al-Ameen. The judge noted that “society would never expect such an act from a teacher”.
Al-Ameen, now 25, says for him, no compensation is enough. As even a slight downpour lets in water into his small home in Kandala, he says: “The verdict was against her because she was guilty. God made it happen. But how does it help me? One side of me is still dark… Financial compensation doesn’t do anything for me.”
Shereefa, who lives 500 metres from their home, never came to check up on him all these years, Al-Ameen claims. Shereefa remained unavailable for comment. Almost none of the teachers employed at the school at the time work there anymore.
Recalling that morning, he says Shereefa kept insisting nothing had happened even when a teacher from an adjoining classroom rushed in hearing his cries.
His mother, Sumaiya Beevi (43), says when she rushed to the school on being alerted, a teacher told her Al-Ameen only had a “minor injury”.
Special Public Prosecutor Ajith Prasad J K said all the key witnesses, teachers at the school, turned hostile during the trial. “From the outset itself, there was an attempt by the teachers to twist the case,” Prasad said.
Al-Ameen says the incident shattered his confidence, and he could never focus on his studies after that. After studying till Class 10 at the same school, he finished his schooling from another institute and then joined a textile technology course at a polytechnic but eventually dropped out. The disability also kept him from holding on to a job, he says.
Once, he dreamed of joining police, Al-Ameen adds. “I should be the one taking care of my family, but instead, they are forced to take care of me. I appeal to the government to help me out with a job.”
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