Over 25 days starting July 20, the family of nine-year-old Indra Kumar Meghwal, the Dalit boy from Jalore who was assaulted, allegedly by his upper-caste teacher, desperately rushed him from one hospital to another, covering close to 1,300 kilometres across Rajasthan and Gujarat before he died in an Ahmedabad hospital — the eighth he had been taken to — on the morning of August 13.
His family had said that he was assaulted, allegedly for drinking water from a pot reserved for the upper-caste teacher.
A charting of the family’s journey from the time they left Surana village in Jalore on July 20 presents a disturbing picture of their desperation as they took him from one hospital to another.
A report, based on statements by Indra’s father Devaram and one of his uncles, has been prepared by Subhash Chandra Mani, an Assistant Director of Social Justice and Empowerment Department, Jalore.
According to the report – shared with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), New Delhi – Indra left for school around 7 am on July 20 and reached school about half an hour later. During the lunch break, between 10.30 am and 11 am, he proceeded to drink water from a pot meant for the teacher and school owner, Chail Singh.
Upon seeing Indra drinking water from the pot, the report said, Singh allegedly assaulted Indra, following which he started bleeding from his ear and fell to the ground.
The report further said that once school got over for the day, Indra went to his father’s puncture repair shop that’s across the street from the school and narrated the ordeal to his father. Later in the day, with the pain in his ear worsening, the family got him medicines from a store and administered them to him.
When that didn’t help, the family took Indra to Bajrang hospital in Bagoda, 13 km away, in Jalore – the report doesn’t mention if he was taken the same day or the following day. As the pain subsided, the family brought him back home, the report added.
A day or two later, when the pain shot up again, the family took him to Astha Multispeciality hospital in Bhinmal, close to 50 km from Surana village. A day later, the pain reduced and they brought him back home. However, the pain shot up again the following day, and the family took him to Triveni Hospital in Bhinmal, where he was admitted for two days.
A day after he was brought home, the pain shot up yet again and the family took him to a local hospital in Surana, where the doctors told them to take him to Deesa in Gujarat – 155 km away. In Deesa, the family admitted Indra to Karni Hospital. Following treatment, the doctors discharged him about 24 hours later, and the family returned home to Rajasthan.
Once home, Indra’s health worsened and they once again took him to Triveni hospital in Bhinmal. Here, he was admitted for three days. When the pain got worse, the family rushed him to a hospital in Mehsana, Gujarat, over 300 km from Bhinmal, where he was kept for six days. However, with his health showing no sign of improvement, the family took him to Geetanjali Hospital in Udaipur, over 270 km from Mehsana. Indra was kept here for a day, and, on the advice of doctors there, taken to Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad.
According to the report, Indra was admitted at the Ahmedabad hospital for about 24 hours before he passed away at 11.30 am on August 13.
A doctor at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, who is aware of Indra’s case, said, “He was brought to the hospital on August 11 and he died on August 13. Initial diagnosis was that of chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM), along with infection in the eyeball and venous sinus thrombosis (clots in brain’s veins). When a child has a throat infection, the infection may go up to the middle ear through the Eustachian tube (which connects the throat to the middle ear).
When the infection reaches the middle ear, it’s called acute suppurative otitis media (ACOM). After a week or so after a child has suffered from ACOM, it goes into chronic disease, becoming CSOM. CSOM can then perforate the tympanic membrane (the eardrum) and pus starts coming out. The infection, if left untreated, can spread to all the vital organs in the skull area as the cavity is interconnected.” The doctor added that the final cause of death is yet to be ascertained.
By the end of their travels between home and these multiple hospitals across Rajasthan and Gujarat, between July 20 and August 13, the Meghwal family had covered at least 1,259 kilometres.