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Schoolboy death leads to ransack
200 villagers burn office and attack hostel

Chopra, May 21: A Catholic-run primary school in North Dinajpur was attacked by a mob of over 200 villagers after the body of one of its students, a 10-year-old boy, was found floating in a campus pond this morning.

The father has alleged that the boy, Nirmal Roy, was “beaten up by teachers” of St. Paul’s School and then “dumped in the pond”. He said there were blood marks on the face of his son, so he could not have drowned by accident.

Police sources, however, said that there was no external injury on the body. Some blood seemed to have oozed out of his nose, which could happen because of drowning, the source said. The police are waiting for the post-mortem report to ascertain what could have caused the death.

The co-educational school, where 316 students study from kindergarten to Class IV, has hostels for boys and girls on the campus.

The mob broke one of the boys’ hostel gates and burnt the office of Father Benedict Toppo, who teaches there. It also broke the car of the teacher and vandalised several school rooms. No student was hurt.

Some of the teachers took the boys who were in the hostel and hid them in the girls’ wing to escape the vandalism which went on for an hour till about about 30 policemen arrived from Chopra police station and fired blanks.

The 20-year-old school is at Subhashnagar in Chopra, the only Assembly segment in the plains under the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat from where the Trinamul Congress got the lead in the just concluded general elections. In all the other segments, the BJP had posted leads.

The police said the family of the boy, who read in Class III, filed a murder case in the evening. The school has filed a complaint of vandalism, against which no arrests have been made. The police have recorded a case of unnatural death and the body has been sent for post-mortem.

A police source said that when a crowd had gathered near the school around 8am after hearing the news of the death, workers of a political party were seen instigating the residents, many of them poor tea garden or farm labourers, to attack the school.

Nirmal’s father Labol Roy is also a tea garden labourer.

“The boy was missing since yesterday evening. The school employees searched for him. They filed a complaint at Chopra police station last night. They also informed the boy’s parents,” a police officer said.

A member of the school committee today alleged that the school was attacked because some residents wanted to grab the 40 acres on which the institution stands now. But the police source said no one from the school had complained about any attempt at grabbing the school’s land.

Sister Nirmala Tirkey, the principal of St Paul’s, said the experience was “frightening”.

“We condemn the attack on our institution. The boy went missing yesterday and it is unfortunate that he was found dead today. It seems to be an accident but a section of residents blamed and attacked us without any provocation,” she said. “We have filed a complaint with the police and have also informed our superiors. Students were already in shock to learn about the boy’s death. The attack has added to their worries. After the incident, many parents have come and taken away their kids.”

Abraham Hembram, a member of the school committee, said the attack was planned by a section of “unscrupulous people” who wanted to capture the school’s land. “A section of local people wants to have the land on which our school stands.”

He, too, said the death was an “accident”. “But it is unbecoming to attack a school when hundreds of students, teachers and other staff are present on the campus,” Abraham said.

Some local people gave a different version. “We suspect the boy was mercilessly beaten and then thrown into the pond. There should be an appropriate police investigation,” said Parimal Singha, a resident of Subhashnagar.

Subimal Pal, the subdivisional police officer said, “raids would be carried out to nab those who had attacked the school”.