Murder of Class 2 student of Ryan International School leaves many disturbing questions
School authorities yet to explain why no one heard boy's cries for help, how man got into school with knife.
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The murder of seven-year-old Pradyuman Thakur, a Class 2 student of Ryan International School, may have found its culprit, but the mystery is far from resolved. The police have arrested the school's bus conductor, Ashok Kumar, for killing the child. Police claim Kumar confessed that he tried to sexually assault Pradyuman and killed him when he resisted.
Pradyuman's body was found inside the toilet of Ryan International School, Bhondsi, on Friday (September 8) morning. The body was found with its throat slit open. The incident has led to parents of children studying in various branches of Ryan International School question the safety provided to students on the premises.
Police say Ashok Kumar walked into the school with a knife and used it to kill Pradyuman. He allegedly tried to sexually assault the boy, but with Pradyuman fighting back, the conductor slit his throat. He then washed his hands and left the toilet. The school's gardener saw the body and raised an alarm. The question that arises here is why didn't Pradyuman cry for help when Kumar assaulted him. If he did scream for help, why did no one hear his cries?
This account has also been challenged by Pradyuman's father, Varun Thakur.
Thakur has told news channels that he dropped the seven-year-old at the school gate at 7.55am. The distance from the gate to the main building is about 500m, which would have ideally taken Pradyuman about five minutes to cover. It means Pradyuman reached the toilet around 8am and the school authority informed Varun at 8.10am that the child was found bleeding.
Making a pitch for a CBI inquiry, Thakur has alleged that since the crime took just 10 minutes for execution, it looks pre-planned.
Ryan International is being asked to explain how non-teaching staff was allowed to use the same toilets that were used by students.
Incidentally, the driver of the school bus, Saurabh Raghav, is singing another tune. Raghav claimed that he was being pressurised by top officials of Ryan International School to admit that the knife used in the crime was part of the bus tool kit. Raghav says it was not.
The question is whether Ashok Kumar came with an intention to kill Pradyuman, carrying a knife with him.
As the motive and recovery of the weapon play crucial role in solving murder cases, the driver's statement only adds more murkiness to the murder.
Raghav has also told the media that when he met Kumar after the incident, he looked rather composed for someone who had just tried to molest a child and then killed him.
Another fact that raises doubts over what actually happened to Pradyuman is the Gurgaon Police's allegation that school authorities tampered with the evidence. The school authorities got the toilet cleaned of the bloodstains.
An India Today report on the unanswered questions in the case points at a more shocking twist to the murder. As per the report, the school authorities asked Ashok Kumar to take out Pradyuman's body from the toilet.
Kumar's claim is that the bloodstains on his shirt were a result of lifting the child's body. The school authorities have some serious explaining to do here. If Ashok Kumar slit Pradyuman's throat, then there would have been blood on his clothes. If they saw it, why did they ask a bloodstained man to bring a child out of the toilet? Why did they not suspect anything?
According to a story carried by The Quint, Prayuman's father was told by the parents of some of his son's classmates that the school authorities asked them to clean the bloodstains on his water bottle.
In a story carried in The Indian Express, a classmate of Pradyuman claimed, "an aunty" kept the boy's bloodstained bag in a dustbin. "The aunty" asked Pradyuman's classmates to take out his bottle and diary from the bag. She then left with the diary. The students who touched the bag were given a hand sanitiser to remove the bloodstains on their hands.
Meanwhile, the noose around the school is tightening. Authorities are being asked to explain how the non-teaching staff was allowed to use the same toilets that were used by students. They are also answerable on how a man could walk into the school with a knife with no one noticing or stopping him.
Ryan International School's northern region head Francis Thomas and human resources head Jayesh Thomas were arrested on Monday. The arrests came after the Haryana government ordered a criminal case against the school for the crime.
A police team has reached Mumbai to question Ryan Pinto, CEO of the school chain. Pinto and his parents, who are trustees of the school, have sought anticipatory bail in the case.
Police are also trying to question the school’s principal, Neerja Batra, whose questioning was postponed after she claimed to have fallen ill.
Surely, this case is far from resolved. Given the fact that most CCTV cameras installed in the school were non-functional and did not cover the entire school, cracking the case could prove difficult for the investigators.
The only hope is that those in power do not hide behind short public memory and let schools become danger zones for our children.