Indian authorities vowed Saturday to take action after a primary school teacher ordered her pupils to take turns slapping a Muslim classmate, with footage of the incident stoking outrage online.
Rights groups say hate crimes and violence against India's large Muslim minority have been on the rise since Hindu-nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014.
Footage of Thursday's incident shows the teacher of a private school in Uttar Pradesh state instructing students to hit the seven-year-old, ostensibly because he got his multiplication tables wrong.
"Why are you hitting him so lightly? Hit him hard," she is heard telling the children, as the boy stands crying.
"Start hitting him on the waist... His face is turning red, hit him on the waist instead," she added.
Police superintendent Satyanarayan Prajapat said the footage had been verified.
"Departmental action will be taken against the teacher," he said in a video posted on social media.
The victim's father filed a case with police in Muzaffarnagar district, where the incident took place, the magistrate said in a separate video statement.
The graphic footage provoked widespread dismay online, with opposition leader Rahul Gandhi blaming the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for stoking religious intolerance in the Hindu-majority country.
"Sowing the poison of discrimination in the minds of innocent children, turning a holy place like school into a marketplace of hatred," he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
"There's nothing worse a teacher can do for the country," he added. "This is the same kerosene spread by the BJP that has set every corner of India on fire."
Uttar Pradesh has been governed by the BJP since 2017 when it appointed Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a saffron-robed Hindu monk seen as a potential successor to Modi.
During his tenure, Hindu mobs have launched a spate of attacks over so-called cow protection -- a sacred animal for many Hindus -- and committed other hate crimes that have sown fear among the state's Muslim population.
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