Residents at the Saharsa school on Friday. Telegraph picture
Patna, Feb. 28: The principal of a school that aims to further education in Saharsa and is named after St Francis Xavier was arrested today for allegedly using his students as a shield against a mob of bow-and-arrow-wielding local people with whom he had personal enmity over a land dispute.
One employee of the school located at Patuaha in Saharsa, around 260km northeast of Patna, was killed in the clash that erupted this morning when classes had begun.
Police said a group of people armed with bows and arrows attacked the students and employees of St Xavier’s School under the jurisdiction of the Sadar police station in Saharsa district. Four employees and as many students received serious injuries when they battled the intruders. The students, who sprung to the defence of the school allegedly at the behest of principal P.P. Albert, are all from classes IX and X.
Manish Kumar, 30, who was employed as accountant in the school, later succumbed to his injuries in hospital following excessive bleeding. He had been shot in the chest, ostensibly by an arrow, though some local residents said gunshots had also been fired.
Four students — Suraj Raj, Badal Kumar, Amit Kumar and Mahesh Kumar, all aged between 14 and 15 years — received wounds in the attack and are being treated at the Saharsa Sadar Hospital.
Doctors said Suraj had suffered injuries in his right leg while Badal was hit in his waist and back.
Station house officer of Saharsa Sadar police station Surya Kant Choubey squarely blamed the principal for the flare-up that commenced when the students were busy in class. “School director PP Albert is building a cold storage for his brother-in-law on a disputed plot of land adjacent to the institute. The director used the students to shield his employees who came to the rescue of their employer,” Choubey said.
According to the police, the school director was engaged in a long-standing dispute with a property dealer Sudhir Singh, who once happened to be Albert’s business partner. However, a dispute cropped up between the two over some business related issue. “The incident is a fallout of the dispute over a plot of land,” Choubey said.
Besides Albert, Sudhir Singh has been held along with his accomplice, Ramesh Sada.
Saharsa superintendent of police Sudhir Kumar Porika denied the report of firing and said those injured were attacked with bows and arrows.
Porika said the situation is now under control. Additional police forces have been deployed in the area to prevent any untoward incident, he added.
The school, affiliated to CBSE, was set up under the St. Xavier’s Institute of Development and Social Welfare Trust — floated by local intellectuals — that was registered in 1999. As per the website of the school, it aims to spread English education in backward areas and has the motto “Glory to God and Service to All”.
The official website describes Albert, the chairman of the school, as “a versatile man with vibrant experiences”.