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“My son is a special child, that is why I had taken him so far, to Guwahati, to put him a special school,” said the mother of a disabled child, aged nine, who was seriously injured after being allegedly beaten up in a special school near Guwahati. The family hails from Arunachal Pradesh. “He was there hardly an hour or so when he was beaten up badly. How could they do that? I had put him there because it is supposed to be a special school,” the mother said.
Her son, whose mental disability prevents him from comprehending well, was allegedly beaten up in Residential Special School run by an organisation called Society for Health & Education Development (SHED) Tuesday, following which his mother took him home to Naharlagun, near Itanagar.
“I had left him at the school around 4 pm. I had reached my hotel in Guwahati around 6 pm when I got a call from the school secretary, who asked me to take my son away as soon as possible. When I asked for the reason, he said he had become violent, gone out of control. I reached the school around 7 pm; the warden brought my son out. When he saw me he started crying and rushed to me, saying Sir had beaten him up,” the mother told The Indian Express from Naharlagun.
Though she had not lodged a complaint, the district administration filed one suo motu at Sonapur police station Wednesday on the basis of media reports, with the police waiting for a formal statement from the boy and his parents. “We have registered a case under Section 77 of the JJ Act on the basis of a complaint by the local executive magistrate. We have contacted the parents and asked them to lodged a formal complaint, so that we can take proper action,” said Biswajit Deka, officer in-charge of Sonapur police station.
The police had picked up three persons from the school hostel Wednesday, but let them off after taking their statements. “We cannot arrest them without the victim’s complaint,” Deka said.
The boy’s mother, however, said she was scared. “We did not go to police at Sonapur because we did not want to get into the hassle of going there again and again. Our immediate priority is to protect our child,” she said. Eldest of three children, “he has problems walking, speaking and understanding things,” she said, saying she had brought him to Sonapur because there are no such centres in Arunachal Pradesh.
“How could they treat a special child so badly?” said Mitali Tingkhatra, chairperson of the Arunachal Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, who met the family in Naharlagun. “I got a call from a child rights activist in Guwahati and took a detailed statement from the child and his parents. We are taking up the case with the Assam government as well as the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.”
The mother said she had paid Rs 34,000 as admission fee and advance for six months. “I had given copies of his medical history and told the school secretary and warden that he has a small pipe fitted to his skull for removal of water that gathers in his head every six months. He is under treatment of a neurologist in a hospital in Guwahati,” she said.
Hiranya Saikia, secretary-in-charge of SHED, denied assault. “The boy turned violent within about 30 minutes of his mother’s departure. He bit another boy, then went to the kitchen and hit the caretaker on his head with a dao (machete). When I reached the dining hall, two older boys were struggling to hold him down. I put him into a room, but he grew more violent, and repeatedly hit his head against a steel bunk. He also hit a bookshelf, which almost fell on him. I immediately called up,” said Saikia, who stays on the school compound.
Set up in 2007, the school has 52 students – all with various disabilities – of whom 23 including five girls stay in the hostel, Saikia said. There is one child each from Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal, and it was on a reference from the other Arunachali child’s parents that this family had brought their son .
Kamrup (Metro) deputy commissioner M Angamuthu said all childcare homes, orphanages and private hostels in the district would henceforth have to be registered with the district administration. He also announced a new committee comprising magistrates, police officers and social welfare officials to inspect all such homes and hostels.
Runumi Gogoi, chairperson of the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said it has registered a suo motu case.