A day after three boys, all aged 14 years, drowned in a river while trying to flee from their school hostel in Virar near Mumbai, the Valiv police on Thursday arrested two teachers of the Vagda Gurukul International School for allegedly torturing the trio mentally and physically for scoring low marks.
Police identified the suspects as Ripusudan Shivkumar Garg and Sandeep Janya Palva. Garg teaches Sanskrit at the school and Palva is a physical training teacher, the police said.
They have been booked for voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons under section 324 of the IPC and abetment to suicide of a child under section 305 of the IPC, along with relevant sections of the Juvenile Justice Act. The two were presented before the Vasai sessions court on Thursday and remanded in police custody till September 1.
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The police said on Wednesday, Suresh Chadwa, father of 14-year-old Meet whose body was found in the Sukh river near the school premises lodged a complaint in the case.
Meet and his two friends who were students of Class IX, had fled the premises of the school through a hole in the boundary wall which took them to the river bank on Monday night. As per the statements of Suresh and the other seven classmates of the boys, the Sanskrit teacher had allegedly caned them on the palms for scoring two and four marks out of 20. The teacher had also threatened them that they would be caned again on Tuesday and this prompted them to flee the school, the police said.
The other seven boys have told the police that they had been caned by Ripusudan on Monday. “Another kid in the same class has told us that the teachers had caned them previously as well. We have recorded a statement and registered a separate case,” said senior inspector S B Mane.
The police have also recovered the cane allegedly used by the teachers.
Meet, along with Prahul Narayan Patel and Kushal Nilesh Dadha – all students of Class IX at Vagad Gurukul International School in Virar. They had gone missing on Monday at 8.30 pm. The police had registered a missing case on Tuesday. However, on Wednesday their bodies were found in Sukh River.
Dr T P Lahane, dean at the state-run JJ hospital where the bodies were taken for post-mortem, said, “The bodies were decomposed. The hands had bruises indicating that they were beaten up but there were no bruises on any other body part. We have asked for a forensic test at Kalina’s forensic laboratory.”
He added that the cause of death was yet to be ascertained and a forensic report is awaited, said Lahane.
Sukh river drowning: ‘We tried to stop them, but they had fled the premises’
Nine boys from class IX of the Vagad Gurukul International School had attempted to flee, but when the physical training teacher Sandeep Palva apparently tried to stop them, six of the boys retreated while three boys fled, police said.
The six boys, in a statement to the Valiv police, said Meet Suresh Chadwa of Malad, Rahul Narayan Patel of Gorai in Borivali and Kushal Nilesh Dadha of Dombivali had planned to flee and had exited a hole in the school boundary wall after the physical teacher started chasing them. Scared of being beaten up again, the boys ran outside the premises.
The six boys have told police that they had tried to stop the boys but the trio had already stepped outside. The police suspect that the boys might have jumped in the river in fear of getting caught by the teacher.Their school bags and slippers were found on the river bank.
“The school bag contains things such as biscuits and chocolates. The boys might have dropped their bags when they saw the teacher running behind them,” inspector Kishore Shinde said.
“The boys have told us that four-five teachers used to cane them regularly,” said Shinde.
On Monday, the Sanskrit teacher of the boys, Ripusudan Shivkumar Garg, had declared the test marks to the boys of Class IX. Seven of the 30 students had scored low marks for which they were allegedly caned by the teacher. The teacher allegedly caned the boys on the palms and told them that they would be getting ‘more caning’ on Tuesday.
After the boys retired to their dormitory, they waited for others to sleep. The nine boys then picked up their bags and started towards the hole of the boundary wall which was blocked by only a makeshift grill.
“We have tried to get the CCTV footage of the dormitory. However, at the time the kids fled there was no electricity on the premises and the incident was not captured. Apparently, there was no power supply at the time of the alleged caning as well,” said Shinde. When Garg found out that the boys were escaping, he gave chase and tried to stop them. The three boys, however, increased their pace while the others stopped.
The teacher alerted the management and registered a missing complaint and alerted the parents of the children. The bodies of the boys were found in the Sukh river.
Narsingh Bhosle, deputy superintendent of police (Vasai region), said they were recording the statements of other students and parents to ascertain whether the management of the school was aware of the alleged torture.
The police on Thursday met the parents of the other 116 students of the school and urged them to talk to their kids about the issue.
“Some kids said that in spite of being beaten up at school they never complained to their parents because the teachers had threatened them,” said Bhosle.
Nanjibhai Bhavia, a parent, said, “My son was thrashed once when he was in Class IX. The school is responsible for this incident.”
The school management denied any foul play. “Every year we give a circular to all teachers about refraining from beating the kids. The teachers sign them and give it back. We also have regular checks and talks with the students but no one has complained to us,” said Amrut Gada, managing trustee.
When asked whether the management was aware of the hole in the boundary wall, Gada denied any knowledge of the matter.
NK Rita, chairperson, board of trustees said, “The school does not believe in hitting students. We want students to learn. We will conduct an internal inquiry and anyone who is found guilty will be punished.”