The Brothers of St. Patrick (also known as Patrician Brothers) run some of the finest schools in India. They began their mission way back in 1875, taking care of destitute and orphan boys of the Archdiocese of Madras (now Chennai). The Patrician Brothers went on to establish 15 schools across the country, impacting lakhs of lives positively, giving them hope and direction for the future. But, you never heard of the Principal or Administrator of any of the schools: they came, did their work and moved on, selflessly serving the children in their care.
Now, contrast this with a modern-day Patrick — Patrick Brillant, a French national and one of founding Trustees of Tridha — a Waldorf/ Steiner inspired school in Andheri, Mumbai. Patrick Brillant is accused of sexually abusing a 3-year old girl, a Kindergarten student of Tridha, in the school premises. What makes this abominable crime even more horrific is that Patrick was allegedly abetted in the act by the 3-year old’s class teacher, Mitali. She allegedly remained mute witness to Patrick sexually abusing the girl and another boy student in her class, when the other students were at play, and she told the two children to keep this as ‘their little secret’. While fact can be more shocking than fiction — how someone could do something like this is simply beyond comprehension.
What did Tridha’s Trustees and management do when the little girl’s parents brought the matter to their attention? They brushed aside the parents’ concerns, refused to immediately investigate the matter, and in fact, asked the girl’s parents (on phone) to stop sending the survivor and her older sibling to school. Pained and dismayed by the school’s callous reaction, the parents lodged an FIR in May 2017. After the police dragged their feet on the case for several months (under pressure from Patrick’s political patrons), Patrick and the class teacher were finally arrested in November 2017 under the POCSO Act, only to be granted a cash bail(!) a few days later, in a shocking verdict by the Sessions Court.
Patrick was back in his happy hunting ground soon after! What did the other Trustees and management of Tridha do? Rather than follow basic norms of caution that keep an accused rapist away from the scene of the crime, they went into an over-drive to champion Patrick’s triumphant return to Tridha. One of the Trustees sent a letter to all the parents claiming that the time for healing has come, and welcoming Patrick back into school with kindness after the traumatic event (one wonders trauma for who — clearly the school thought only for themselves and the alleged rapist!). The Trustee’s letter blatantly disregarded the basic tenet of the POCSO Act — that the onus of proving innocence lies on the accused. Some of the teachers, management included, began overtly brain-washing their students and parents about how wonderful “Patrick Sir” was and how much the school needed him to continue functioning. Patrick was never closer to becoming St. Patrick.
Disturbed by Patrick being back on bail at the scene of the crime and the school’s orchestrated propaganda campaign, a handful of parents wrote a letter to the management to keep Patrick away from the school until the trial was over. The management told them, in no uncertain terms, to find another school for their kids. One of the anxious parents wrote an email to the other Trustees and the Principal expressing concern about the safety of her child. Patrick took it upon himself to respond out of turn to the email, comparing himself to Mahatma Gandhi and Mandela, to position himself beyond reproach. Not to be outdone, a group of pro-Patrick parents floated a management-backed conspiracy theory that the dissenting parents were out to take over Tridha and had ‘made up the story’. They believe that the victim’s parents have ‘an agenda’ to justify putting their 3-year old child and themselves through this ordeal!
Did any of them — Trustees, Principal, Teachers — spare a thought for the little girl and boy children who had been abused? To say that Tridha failed them is a gross understatement. The management’s only pre-occupation has been to raise Patrick to demi-god status. Meanwhile, the little girl has been undergoing counselling and her mother has taken a long leave of absence from work to help her child deal with the trauma. All this without an iota of support or concern from the school!
And here’s perhaps the unkindest cut of all — a fund-raising campaign driven by a teacher of the school (also one of Patrick’s ex-wives), to raise a corpus from the parents for Patrick’s legal expenses on the case. Parents were encouraged to ‘contribute any amount small or big’. What was the unique selling proposition? — “Save Tridha — the school will close down without Patrick!”
The fund-raising campaign has been actively endorsed by the school management — a shameful act of commission on its part. A group of indoctrinated parents has contributed to the corpus, either out of fear of repercussion or a need for self-preservation.
The conduct of the Trustees and management of Tridha raises some serious ethical questions:
When did Tridha become a one-man institution?
Is this the vision the Trustees had for the school?
For whom does Tridha actually exist?
Obviously not for its students, or else the little girl and boy would not have been abandoned by the school so nonchalantly.
It seems Tridha owes allegiance only to one person — Patrick Brillant. Anyone else — especially students and parents — don’t really matter. There is, of course, no place for dissent.
The management of Tridha has conducted itself in a cult-like manner, reminding us of charlatans raised to demi-god status by their ‘bhakts’, only to later reveal that they are nothing but lowly criminals. Remember Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Asaram Bapu and some other leading lights of the pseudo-spiritual world?
Fortunately, there’s still hope in the world. On 2nd April 2018, the Mumbai High Court cancelled Patrick Brillant’s bail order calling it ‘perverse, unsustainable and contrary to the incriminating evidence on record’. Not to be deterred, Patrick then moved the Supreme Court to obtain a stay on the High Court’s cancellation of his bail. The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the High Court’s bail cancellation and asked Patrick to surrender to the police on Monday. Patrick Brillant will now go back to jail and stand trial for his alleged crime.