Local residents of Shantipur village in Assam recently handed over a 19-year-old Bhutanese student to his relatives after he was found almost unconscious in the area.
The class 12 student at one of the private schools in Gelephu had gone missing from the school campus on the evening of June 15. He had left two notes in his hostel room before he left the school premises.
A missing report was filed with the police. The report was withdrawn after the student was found.
Members of the family alleged that the school warden abused and physically tortured the student. “It was the warden, was the first sentence he (victim) spoke when he was found drenched in water,” said one of the relatives. “He had attempted to kill himself.”
The student told Kuensel that he was depressed because the warden had ill-treated him over a long period of time. “He had something against me and I felt I was a target. He had also made racist comments against me for my poor performance in Dzongkha classes.”
The student was repeating class 12 at the school.
What led to the suicidal attempt?
On June 14, the student and a friend had left the school compound to buy razor blades from a nearby shop without informing the concerned officials. They were caught by the captains while returning and were reported to the warden.
The duo were punished and given two weeks of grass cutting work. On June 15, the student after he missed lunch had gone to a friend’s place to have a meal. While returning they decided to drink.
“I drank a quarter of alcohol because I was depressed,” said the victim. Later the warden caught him. He alleged that he was pushed against the wall and punched by the warden for getting drunk. “He said he would return and deal with me later.”
The student claimed that he then decided to flee and wrote two notes addressed to the warden and his mother. It was learnt that teachers and students including a group comprising family members searched for him in the areas nearby.
He was found around 1:30pm the next day in Shantipur village, about 20km from Gelephu.
According to the parents, the school administration failed to inform them about the boy’s misbehavior. “It is the responsibility of the school management to report to the patents. We were kept in the dark and the warden handled the case on his own,” said a relative. “They were even late to report the missing of our son, which is totally unacceptable.”
When the parents took the student back to school to appear the midterm examination yesterday, the school administration denied their request. “We were chased out from the school gate by the principal and asked to take the documents along,” said a parent.
However, the student was later allowed to sit the examination in a separate room around 1pm. “They allowed him to sit for the paper only because we had a journalist with us and we demanded answers for their earlier denial,” said the parent.
Officials from the school said that the management regrets what happened with the student. “It just happened so fast that there was no time to communicate among ourselves,” said an official. “We will sort the issues out and find a best course of action to benefit all the students and the school in general.”
Kuensel learnt that earlier a group of students had reported abuse from the same warden to the management. It was learnt that the management verbally corrected the warden. However, no further action was taken against him.
“The management has failed to act responsibly which is why the current issue surfaced,” said the parent. “If we don’t highlight this now, it could continue and someone could be harmed.”
Reluctant to make the issue public
Kuensel received strong opposition against publishing the article from the school management. It was learnt that the parents were also persuaded and threatened by the management should the article be published.
“The proprietor of the school said that if the issue is brought into the limelight through media, he would make sure that my son doesn’t get admission in any of the schools in the country,” said the parent. “He also threatened that if the name of his school is affected in anyway by the article, he would take us to court including the paper and the reporter.”
Younten Tshedup | Gelephu