Chanho (Ranchi), Feb. 3: A child’s death has polarised a Chanho hamlet 40km from the capital, with parents and schoolchildren ganging up against a teacher charged with fatal assault and the cornered man lashing out against villagers for framing him and even denying that the boy was his student.
This morning, five-year-old Kishan Munda looked puzzled facing a three-member inquiry panel asking him whether his brother Sujit Munda (8), who died yesterday morning, was indeed thrashed on January 28 by teacher Md Arshad Hussain, now suspended.
The case came to light when Sujit’s father Mahadeo Munda, a farmer of village Barhe (not Barhet as reported), went to the police station yesterday to file an FIR, alleging the Class I boy died due to his schoolteacher’s beating.
The body was taken to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, Ranchi, for autopsy. The autopsy report will decide if the child died of internal injuries caused by the beating.
But that an eight-year-old was allegedly beaten up by his teacher in class and died five days later, complaining of pain all along, has raised the hackles of everyone from education minister Geetashree Oraon to state child rights commission chairperson Roop Laxmi Munda.
Acting swiftly, Ranchi district superintendent of education Jayant Mishra sent an inquiry committee comprising sub-inspector of schools Ramashish Pandit, block education extension officer Sheikh Assim and block project officer Mohammed Imtiyaz this morning to the Barhe school.
The Telegraph sat and listened to Kishan talking to the panel before a 50-member crowd at the school. “Khana banay wala lakli se peeth mein marlain muri jhukai ke teen baar (Öforced to bend and hit with a stick used to prepare food thrice on his back),” he lisped in Sadri.
He and his farmer father Mahadeo Munda had tonsured heads. They had just come back from the graveyard after burying Sujit according to Munda customs.
Though Sujit was three years older than Kishan, the brothers studied in the same class.
When education sub-inspector Pandit asked Kishan why his brother was beaten up, the boy said: Jod ghatav dai rahian ni banave saklain (the teacher had given addition and subtraction sums which my brother could not solve).”
Bihari Munda (8), another classmate and eyewitness, said in Hindi: “Jab (Sujit) rone laga to (teacher) bola ki bahana kar raha hai. Phir lakdi chupa diya (when Sujit started weeping, the teacher said he was putting on an act. The teacher then hid the stick).”
Salomi Lohra (7), another classmate, added the teacher had a habit of hitting his students. “Humko mangalvar din mara tha, mara tha to kaan se khoon bahne laga tha (my ear bled when he hit me last Tuesday),” she added.
Yesterday, the accused teacher Mohammed Arshad Hussain was missing when the local police went to his house at Bansokra, about 16km from the middle school.
Today, when The Telegraph met him, the man protested his innocence, going to the extent of saying “as far as I remember, Sujit is not a student of my school”, his assertion proof of the lack of documents in village schools.
Arshad, who said he was a graduate and a permanent teacher working for over 20 years, denied meting out corporal punishment, added he had no official intimation about his suspension and alleged that villagers were “hatching a conspiracy”.
“Villagers have been conspiring against me ever since 2001, when I was transferred here from Tamar. In 2003, they stole cement and rods worth Rs 1.40 lakh brought for school building construction. In 2004, they stole 100 plates, glasses and bowls each bought for the school’s midday meal. In 2005, they stole the school’s lightning conductors worth Rs 26,000. They keep fodder in the school’s building. I know corporal punishment is banned since 2004,” he spoke in a rush.
Asked about this case, he said: “Villagers are trying to frame me in a murder case.”
When told about Hussain’s allegation, said Champa Oraon, president of the village education committee, called him “a big fraud”.
“Though the school has 58 students on its rolls, hardly 20 children turn up each day, but he prepares bills of meal expenditure for 50 students every day. He did not allow local youths to be appointed as para-teachers in the three sanctioned posts. He could not complete the construction of the school building in five years but fooled officials with misleading registers,” Oraon said.
Acting officer-in-charge of Chanho police station Munilal Baraik who has registered a case under section 304 of IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) against the teacher based on Mahadeo’s statement, said the charge hinged on the autopsy report. “Let the report come. Everything will be clear,” he said.
For now, what is clear is the state of schools just 40km from the capital.