Posted by: h4ck@lyst | December 12, 2007

The day terror hit an Indian school- BBC Follow up

The day terror hit an Indian school

By Soutik Biswas
BBC News, Delhi


Blood on the staircase of the Euro International School

Blood from the murder can still be seen in the staircase

When eight-year-old Karan Vasudeva heard the shots ringing out while climbing down the stairway at his school in a suburb close to the Indian capital, Delhi, he thought it was the sound of some construction activity outside.

“I thought it was loud metal work going on,” says the student of the private Euro International school in Gurgaon, a thriving info-tech and property market town.

But as Karan approached the dank ground floor stairwell, he stopped in his tracks and froze.

Lying on the floor near a rubbish bin was the blood splattered body of fellow school pupil, Abhishek Tyagi, 14, with whom he had played a game of cricket in the school playground a few hours earlier on Tuesday.

‘Body downstairs!’

Two students had allegedly pumped in bullets from an imported .32 Harrison pistol – which one of them had apparently picked up from home – into Abhishek’s head and chest.

They had allegedly smuggled the tiny pistol into the school and hidden it in the toilet, before retrieving it when the classes were over.

Rakesh Sharma

My children knew Abhishek, and one of them played with him. They have seen such a bloody death that they are rattled

Euro International school parent Rakesh Sharma

“I and my friends panicked. Then we all ran back up to take the other stairway shouting, ‘Run, run, there is a body lying downstairs!’,” says Karan.

Downstairs, near the stairwell, all hell was breaking loose.

Karan’s elder sister, Nitu, who goes to the same school, had also stumbled upon the body and was trying to keep everybody calm.

“I herded some of the younger children into classrooms. The kids were wailing and crying,” says the 12-year-old girl.

Then, she says, she saw the boys who allegedly killed Abhishek – one 13, the other 14 years old – quietly entering their class room and packing their bags.

“There was no remorse, no emotion on their faces. They sat in their classroom till the police came and picked them up,” says Karan.

In the playground, Karan and Nitu’s youngest sibling, Arjun, was playing on the swing when he heard the shots and the commotion.

By the time the six-year-old boy ran out of the ground and up into the school, he saw Abhishek’s body being wheeled out.

Since then, Arjun has been feverish, refusing to sleep or step out of home muttering that he can “see the body everywhere”, his siblings say.

Abhishek Tyagi

Abhishek Tyagi was killed on the spot

India’s first school shooting has left 550 students and 38 teachers shaken at this five-year-old private school which claims, on its website, to “accentuate on the safety of every child with cameras set up throughout to better monitor each activity in and outside the classrooms”.

It is another matter that the close circuit cameras were scrapped more than a year ago after teachers complained that they were too intrusive.

Tax consultant Anil Sharma, who sends his two children to Euro International, says he will pull them out if the school does not step up its security.

Nine-year-old Mayur and seven-year-old Ashwin have already told their parents that they don’t want to go to the school any longer.

Totally clueless

“They should have metal detectors at the gate, and more security guards to check on students,” says their father.

Rakesh Sharma, father of Karan, Arjun, and Nitu, says his wife is so upset that she wants to take the children out of the school and relocate to some other place.

“My children knew Abhishek, and one of them played with him. They have seen such a bloody death that they are rattled,” he says.

School authorities say they are shocked by the incident, but totally clueless about why it happened.

Euro International school

Euro International says it is one of Gurgaon’s leading schools

“The kids had fought over trivial incidents in the past. And children are never checked in our schools. I put it down to the need for proper parenting, the need to keep your firearms away from your children,” says school Chairman Satya Vir Yadav.

But several parents say privately that the two boys who allegedly killed Abhishek had recently threatened him after a fight, and even sped around the school in a motorcycle a few days ago.

They also speak about a rumour that spread in the school a few months ago that somebody was carrying a gun.

Symbol of power

Like most schools in India, school bags are rarely checked here, and there is no frisking of students. Regular meetings are held between parents and teachers.

School authorities point to the fact that one of the alleged killers picked up his father’s licensed gun easily from home and bought it to school.

Karan Vasudeva and her children

Many parents say that the incident has frightened their children

Though gun control laws are strict in India, more and more people in places like Gurgaon own guns because they are a symbol of power and prestige in caste-ridden and feudal northern India.

The number of gun licenses in the suburb, according to a report, has shot up from 95 in 2005 to nearly 300 already this year.

The four-storey, bright looking school is one of the many private schools with sometimes pretentious names that have mushroomed in suburbs like Gurgaon and attract children of some of India’s new rich – property agents, developers, traders, transporters, a section of farmers – who are prospering by selling land and running small businesses.

The police came out with the names of the two accused boys to the media immediately after the killing, contravening laws about identification of juvenile law breakers.

Back at the school, the school bag of one the boys who the police are questioning still lies on the classroom table, raising questions about the quality of investigation.

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