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Boy death finger at teacher cane, post-mortem awaited

Ranchi, Feb. 2: In what may arguably be the first fatal corporal punishment in the state, an eight-year-old tribal schoolboy died this morning after complaining of pain for five days after his teacher caned him at a state-run middle school in Chanho block, some 40km from the capital.

The post-mortem report of the body of Class I student Sujit Munda will determine if the child died of internal injuries inflicted by his teacher Md Arshad on January 28.

According to A.K. Chaudhary of the RIMS forensic department, the report is expected by Wednesday.

“If the post-mortem report reveals internal injuries, this will be the first death of a child due to corporal punishment to the best of my knowledge,” Jharkhand State Child Rights Protection Commission chairperson Rooplaxmi Munda told The Telegraph.

“If the report points to the guilt of the teacher, he will be charged with murder,” education minister Geetashree Oraon said, adding that the Right to Education Act bans corporal punishment in any form.

The horror unfolded at farmer Mahadeo Munda’s house in Barhat village, when Sujit, the eldest of his three sons, who had been crying and complaining of pain for days, died a little after 5am.

Sujit had told Mahadeo on January 29 that his teacher Md Arshad had beaten him the day before as punishment for not doing his homework. The father took him to the nearby health centre, where the local doctor gave the eight-year-old child painkillers.

By the time the boy’s pain grew worse, it was too late for the parents to do anything.

The shocked father went to Chanho police station today to file an FIR, alleging that Arshad’s caning killed the boy.

By the time police arrived, Arshad had fled. Sub-inspector Munilal Baraik of Chanho police station drew a blank at the teacher’s home. “As it is Sunday, the school was closed today. We will get more information when school opens tomorrow,” Baraik said.

The sub-inspector added Sujit was the eldest of Mahadeo’s three sons. “The youngest is a toddler. We have learnt that the middle brother also went to Sujit’s school,” he said, but could not confirm the boy’s name or class.

If Sujit’s brother was indeed his classmate, it is likely that he saw the caning, too. His statement will also be important in that case.

“We have registered Mahadeo Munda’s complaint and have begun investigations. The post-mortem is crucial to the case,” said Ranchi’s rural SP Surendra Kumar Jha.

Ranchi deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey, who has ordered district superintendent Jayant Mishra to make a separate inquiry, is also waiting for the post-mortem report. “Drastic action will be taken once the contents of the post-mortem are known,” he said.

The state child rights commission will also make its inquiries at the village, chairperson Munda stressed.

Corporal punishment, though banned by the RTE Act, is rampant in the state-run schools, especially in the hinterland, where beating, caning or slapping a child to discipline him or her is common. Most go unreported. Only extreme cases of violence hit the headlines.

In 2011, a Palamau schoolboy beaten up by his teacher became bound to a wheelchair. In 2013, a Gumla schoolboy was hospitalised after his teacher thrashed him. In the same year, a boy narrowly missed becoming blind when his teacher hit the child on the eyes after catching him restless in class.