A video posted on social media showing a female teacher encouraging pupils to slap their Muslim classmate has sparked widespread outrage in India.
The teacher, Tripta Tyagi, allegedly asked her class to beat the seven-year-old boy. She appears to say in the video, in Hindi, that she has “issued a directive to beat all the Muslim pupils”.
Police have said they are investigating the incident, which happened in Muzaffarnagar, in Uttar Pradesh state, reports said. A man who recorded the video can be heard laughing as the boy stands helpless, crying while his classmates approach one-by-one to slap him.
At one point, the teacher can be heard asking a pupil why he did not not hit the child harder.
Satyanarayan Prajapat, the district’s top police officer, said in a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, that investigations were continuing.
“We have taken cognisance of a viral video where a woman teacher is getting some school students to hit a classmate for not learning Mathematics tables," he said.
"We have also spoken to the school principal about the objectionable comment in the video."
Several politicians, academics and members of the public condemned the video, with some accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party government of fuelling communal divisions through its policies.
Acts of violence and discrimination against the country's 200-million Muslim population have increased following the rise to power of the right-wing Hindu government under Mr Modi in 2014.
Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the main opposition Congress party, also blamed the BJP.
“Sowing the poison of discrimination in the minds of innocent children, turning a holy place like a school into a marketplace of hatred – nothing worse a teacher can do for the country," he said.
"This is the same kerosene spread by the BJP which has set every corner of India on fire.”
News anchor Sanket Upadhyay said on X that the teacher "singled out a child of a particular community allegedly for not completing homework”.
"[Teacher] can be heard commenting about the religion," he said.
"Can be heard asking other kids to hit him harder. The other person can be heard laughing. And we are being told this isn’t hate."
“That vile teacher should be behind bars! Instead, she might just get a national teacher's award for promoting national integration! Kafkaesque!! Cry, my beloved country,” said Indian actress Renuka Shahane.