For 17 days, a leprosy patient from Uttar Pradesh's Meerut kept looking for answers for his missing 12-year-old son. His search ended on Thursday in horror when he found out that his son - a Class 7 student at a boarding school in Uttarakhand's Dehradun - had been beaten to death allegedly by seniors and the body was buried by the school within the campus to hush up the case.
Uttarakhand's State Commission of Protection of Child Rights or SCPCR is now trying to register a police case or FIR against the chairman and the directors of the school who tried to cover up the murder.
However, school principal MM Chandiwal has denied any responsibility, saying the incident took place at the school hostel which is not under her jurisdiction.
The state child body is trying to provide legal aid to the parents, both of whom are leprosy patients living in a leprosy home in Meerut. "Since the father of the boy is not educated, the school management made him sign some papers and buried the body in the school premises," said the state child body head Usha Negi.
The boy - categorised as a child in need of care and protection - was brought into the school from a child care facility. He had reportedly stolen some biscuits during a school outing after which he was tortured by his seniors for hours and was also allegedly beaten up with cricket bats and wickets.
The boy was later found unconscious by the warden in the study room. When he was brought to the hospital, he was declared dead.
The shocking incident took place on March 10 but surfaced after the state child rights body intervened.
The Additional Director General of Uttarakhand Police told NDTV, "The school administration tried to hush up the case, they tried to make it a food poisoning case. After the post-mortem, things became clear that he was beaten up. We have arrested two boys, warden and managers. The real motive of the murder is still not known."
After the interrogation of the accused, the bat and the ashes of the burnt wicket, which were used to beat the boy were found, the police said. The accused hid the bat in sports teacher's cupboard and burnt the wicket.
Amidst all this, the biggest grey area remains about the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights inability to make the schools accountable for the crime.
Priyank Kanoongo, Chairman of the Commission said that the lack of a legal framework makes it difficult to force the boarding schools to follow the regulatory guidelines for hostels of educational institutions. "The schools are not prepared to abide by rules. Their accountability needs to be fixed and that can only happen with a proper legal framework. The Supreme Court has passed an order in April last year asking to fix accountability of school management in cases of negligence. It is a work in progress," she said.
Meanwhile, it has also come to light that an 18-year-old student of this school went missing two years ago. The state child rights protection body has asked the police for a report.