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Police horror on protesting schoolkids

Dec. 22: Police baton-charged pre-teen schoolchildren at a road blockade in an Uttar Pradesh town today, dragging the girls by the hair till many of them fell unconscious.

The district hospital in Firozabad then refused to treat any of the 60-odd children, their bodies showing bruises and cuts, on the ground that the matter was “a police case”, parents said.

Nearly 100 children from the co-educational Sant Gyaneshwar HS School, mostly aged between 11 and 13 according to their parents, had blocked the Agra-Kanpur road, some 250 metres from their school.

A few teachers and parents had joined the protest, staged against last night’s murder of the school principal by suspected hoodlums, but students from the higher classes mostly stayed away because of exams.

When the police began the lathi-charge around 10am, some of the local people who had swelled the protesters’ ranks ran away. But the children stood firm.

“It was a grim scene,” a teacher of the school said. “Young students were bleeding from their hands and face, yet they refused to budge and the police went on beating them more brutally.”

He added that only the youngest children from the primary section were spared.

“The police grabbed the girls by the hair and dragged them along the road Ś some for at least 70 metres if not more. At least five girls lost consciousness out of pain,” said Sumedha Arya, a student’s mother.

She said that after the police let go of the children, the parents and teachers took them to the district hospital only to be turned away. “I had to take my daughter Puja to a private nursing home. She had injuries on her legs and hands,” Sumedha said.

“Our children may have been a bit agitated, but what kind of law-and-order problem can children aged between six and 13 create?” a guardian asked.

District magistrate Veenay Kumar Srivastava has ordered a probe by the additional district magistrate.

“The inquiry will find out what exactly led the police to resort to a violent lathi-charge. Appropriate action will be taken if the police action is found unwarranted,” Srivastava said.

“I don’t know how it all turned so ugly,” Firozabad police chief V.K. Garg said. “I sent a force because the roadblock caused a huge traffic snarl on the main road.”

He added: “The unfortunate part was that the elderly teachers on the spot encouraged the students to continue with the roadblock despite our promises to arrest those who killed their principal.”

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