For 24 days, the family of a nine-year-old Dalit boy from Rajasthan’s Jalore district moved from one hospital to another before he breathed his last at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital Saturday.
The hospital in Ahmedabad was the final place where the child was admitted, after he was allegedly beaten up by an upper caste teacher from a private school. The teacher reportedly got infuriated upon seeing the boy drink water from a pot meant for him.
The FIR in the case, registered Saturday after nine-year-old Indra Kumar Meghwal’s death, said between July 20 and August 13, the family took the boy to hospitals in Bagoda and Bhinmal in Jalore district, Udaipur district and Gujarat’s Mehsana before finally admitting him at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital where he died Saturday.
While Chail Singh, 40, the teacher of the private school who allegedly assaulted the boy on July 20, was arrested by the police Saturday, family members claim that they were asked by members of the Rajput community – the community to which Singh belongs – in their village to reach a compromise and to not go to the police.
“A few days back, there was a gathering of around 40 people from the Rajput, Dewasi and Meghwal communities at the school. I, along with my father, went to this gathering. People from the Rajput community told us not to register a case since our children also study at the school and to reach a compromise over the issue. The accused teacher Singh also gave us Rs. 1.5 lakh in two installments and said that he is ready to pay one more lakh for treatment of Indra if there is a need for operation,” said Kishore Kumar Meghwal, the uncle of the boy and the complainant in the case, Sunday.
Kishore, who lodged the FIR Saturday, said that when he went to confront Singh, who has been running the private school named Saraswati Vidya Mandir for more than a decade, the latter accepted that ‘he has made a mistake’. He added that over time, Indra lost sensation in one hand and leg as his condition deteriorated.
Kishore maintained that Singh beat up Indra owing to casteism.
“Due to the fact the Indra Kumar was a child, he didn’t know that the matki (earthen pot) was kept separately for savarna jaati (upper caste) teacher Chail Singh and Indra Kumar mistakenly drank water from the matki of Chail Singh,” read the FIR registered in the case under Section 302 (murder) of the IPC and relevant Sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The FIR added that after Indra drank the water, teacher Singh abused him with casteist slurs and beat him up saying that the boy drank the water from his pot despite being from a lower caste. The FIR said that as a result of the beating, the child sustained internal injuries to his right ear and eye.
Indra, the youngest of three brothers, was a student of Class III.
The death of the boy resulted in massive outrage against the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan, with Dalit rights activists also criticising the government for the compensation amount of Rs 5 lakh that Gehlot has announced for the deceased boy’s family.
Till Sunday evening, the cremation of Indra couldn’t be carried out as relatives sat on a dharna in their village Surana in Jalore district. The demands of the relatives included compensation of Rs 50 lakh, government job for a relative, cancelling the school’s license and fair investigation into the issue.
The police said that internet services in Jalore district were suspended till Sunday night after the incident. Earlier, on Saturday, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had said that the matter has been taken under the case officer scheme to ensure speedy investigation and justice for the aggrieved family.
“Talks are going on with the family and relatives and the body hasn’t been cremated so far. Prima facie, it hasn’t been proven that the boy was beaten up for touching a pot of water. During our visits to the school, we found a tank from where both teachers and students drink water. However, further investigation is being conducted,” said Jalore SP Harsh Vardhan Agarwalla.
The police said that no prior criminal record of Singh has come up so far in the probe.
Along with Dalit outfits and activists, the opposition BJP has also slammed the Rajasthan government over the incident.
National Commission for Protection of Child Rights chairperson Priyank Kanungo tweeted Sunday, stating that the Rajasthan government was being issued a notice over the death of Indra and the probe of the incident will be monitored and the culprit will not be spared.